Raiders secure 5th straight title on Murphy’s 600th win

By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal

Sonora closed out the regular season with a wire-to-wire 77-48 victory over Fullerton at home Thursday night to capture their fifth straight Freeway League title, and seventh in the last eight years. The win also ranked has Sonora Head Coach Mike Murphy’s 600 career win.

Coach Mike Murphy prepares the Freeway Leage Champion Raiders team.

The Raiders forced five turnovers and raced out to a 14-2 lead within the first three minutes of the opening quarter. Sean Murphy and Kevin Marlow each hit a three-pointer, while Austin Carter poured in a pair of buckets in the paint.

Junior Lucas Everett said the game plan all along was to build a big lead early, so all of the seniors could get a chance to play in their final home game.

“We wanted to try to get them as many minutes as possible,” Everett said.

Coach Murphy said that they wanted Senior Night to be the funnest game of the year, and it certainly fit the bill.

“It’s Senior Night, we got all the seniors in–most in the first half–and most of them scored, so it was just a really fun night,” he added.

Fullerton never cut the lead to single digits the rest of the way. The Indians had an opportunity with :28 left in the first half, but after Stone Sinek’s shot rimmed out, the Raiders hustled down the court in the waning seconds and Murphy found senior Michael Lopez for a corner three that splashed through the net right at the buzzer to extend the lead to 43-29 at the break.

The Raiders iced the game in spectacular fashion early in the fourth. Marlow hit back-to-back NBA range threes, then came up with a steal and found Carter hustling down in transition for a crowd-pleasing, two-handed dunk that gave the Raiders their biggest lead of the game 73-45 with five minutes to play.

Marlow lead all scorers with 24 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 steals.

Carter finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds and a couple assists. Perhaps most impressively though, he was still diving on the floor and going after every loose ball with the Raiders up by more than 20 points in the final quarter.

“Austin has an unbelievable motor, that’s what is so appealing about him to all of the colleges,” coach Murphy said. “He is probably the most talented player on the floor every night, and he plays as hard or harder than anybody out there.”

Sinek paced his season average with 15 points for Fullerton, with 12 coming in the first half.

The Raiders finished the regular season with a 25-3 record and went 9-1 in league, with the lone loss coming against La Habra.

“This team shoots the ball as good or better than any team I’ve ever had,” coach Murphy said. “And they’ve just got a lot of grit, they’re tough, they battle and beat teams they shouldn’t beat.”

Sonora will find out who their first round playoff matchup will be against on Sunday, when the CIF brackets are released. Murphy acknowledged that Division 1-AA will be a tough brackett, be feels confident his team can make a run at the title.

“I don’t think there is any team that we can’t compete with, so we are excited about the playoffs,” he added.

It wasn’t just the boys who dominated Senior Night at Sonora.

Earlier in the evening, the Lady Raiders ended the regular season with a wire-to-wire win of their own, defeating Fullerton 60-17.

Coach Melissa Barajas’ team finished second in the Freeway League with a 19-7 record overall and 8-2 in league. The girls only losses were to the league champs, Troy.

Barajas and the Lady Raiders will also find out their CIF matchup on Sunday.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.