Raiders beat Friars despite loud crowd
By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
Sonora struggled shooting the ball in a tough matchup against Servite last Tuesday on the road behind their hostile crowd, but came out on top winning 58-51.
The Raiders normally don’t have trouble shooting from behind the arc, but against Servite, they struggled to find their usual easy baskets.
“I think it’s a product of this gym, we’ve played here a number of times, and they crank the heat up to about 110 and their crowd is fantastic,” said Sonora Head Coach Mike Murphy.
“This was the best environment of the season for sure, you know the Sonora Servite crowds tout for the best crowds in Orange County, it just creates for a great atmosphere and a great game,” Sonora guard Christian Rhodes said.
The Raiders are typically very good shooting, and have shot teams out of the gym, but when they are missing shots their shooting nature can hurt them.
“We are not very patient,” Murphy explained. “We shoot the ball way too soon, we don’t make enough passes on offense, and that’s kind of a product of guys that all think they can score whenever they want.”
The Raiders went into the fourth quarter up 42-30, primarily from their defensive effort. But it didn’t take long for the Friars to heat up and begin to chip away at the Raiders lead.
This time it was the Servite defense that helped keep the Friars in the game, holding the Raiders to just four points for more than half the quarter.
The Raiders finally began to break out of their shooting slump, when Rhodes knocked down two free throws, and Raider point guard Josh Rodriguez threw in a floater.
Sonora’s Aashad Womack struggled from the free throw line, but knocked down the first of two to help extend the Raiders’ lead. His second free throw attempt clanged off the rim, but was collected by the Raiders to continue their possession.
Womack drew a tough defensive matchup guarding Servite’s 6’ 6” wing Cameron Griffin, who scored 16 points.
“It takes a lot of energy to bang and bump with those big guys, and that guy he was guarding was about 280 pounds, and he was battling him,” Murphy said about Aashad’s effort.
Womack’s defensive and rebounding effort was key for the Raiders. In the second quarter he grabbed five of his eight rebounds.
Throughout the first half, the Raiders struggled from the free throw line having made just 5-14 from the charity stripe.
“We missed more free throws tonight than we did all season,” Murphy added.
The Servite student section, know as “The Asylum” appeared to get in the heads of some of the Raiders while shooting free throws, but it was free throws that ended up pulling the Raiders through for the win.
“Before the game we all talk about it,” Rhodes explained about preparing for the crowd noise. “We all say don’t get involved with the crowd, let them do their own things and we just play our game.”
Rhodes, who knocked down four three pointers en route to 19 points on the night, was also perfect from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
This is one of the first games this season where the Raiders’ three-point shooting has not gone their way.
“I tell our guys all the time, the three point shot is fool’s gold,” Murphy said warning against shooting threes.
Sonora’s Steven Murphy had three blocks in the second half which allowed the Raiders to get out in transition. Murphy was matched up against Servite’s Jacob Hughes, a 6’ 11” sophomore, but held him to just four points.
“The bigger his opponent, the better he plays,” Coach Murphy said about Steven Murphy.
As in their matchups in previous years, there was a clash of styles in this game, the Raiders are notorious for their fast pace, but Servite tried to slow the game down.
“We wanted the game fast and we were going to pressure,” Murphy said, “When the game goes fast we play better, when the game goes slow, they play better.”
The Raiders should have no problem playing fast against equally fast Sunny Hills as they open up Freeway League.
In addition, the Raiders will be back to full strength with the return of Senior Forward Ben Rico, who was sidelined with an ankle injury early this season.
Steven Murphy dealt with an injury to his Achilles during the summer, but is playing some of his best basketball this season.