Lady Raiders get past Rams, will face Agoura….again
By Jeremiah Girard
La Habra Journal
The Sonora Lady Raiders basketball team outlasted the Murrieta Mesa Lady Rams, 45-33, in a sometimes gritty, sometimes sloppy kind of game Thursday nights at Sonora.
With the win, the Raiders will move into the second round and take on Agoura High School for the third year in a row in the playoffs.
Both teams played pretty sloppy early. Both were playing a pressure defense, and neither team head their minds in the game offensively, making for a big number of turnovers.
At the end of the first quarter Murrieta Mesa had a 9-8 advantage.
“It was definitely not pretty tonight,” said Coach Melissa Barajas. “But we knew this team was going to be tough.”
The Lady Raiders came out in the second quarter and picked up their defensive pressure. The pressure allowed Sonora to play its usual offense, which starts with creating opportunities on defense.
The Lady Rams seemed to be trying everything to keep Sonora’s center, Kylie Rodriguez, out of the game. Mesa showed some man coverage, a 2-3 zone, and even a 1-3-1 zone in the first half, and it worked.
With Rodriguez taken out of the game, Senior Guard Margo Campos rose to the occasion. Campos had six points in the quarter, and kept Sonora’s stagnant offense in the game.
The Lady Raiders took a 19-17 lead into the half.
Rodriguez was able to wake up a little bit early in the third quarter. She had two offensive rebounds and put backs in the quarter.
Still, neither team could get their offense firing on all cylinders.
The third quarter would have been dominated by Mesa if it wasn’t for great defense by the Lady Raiders, lead by Lauren Nakahara. None of what she did will show up in the stat sheet, but may have easily been what won the game for Sonora.
Nakahara took three charges in the quarter alone, and also got her hands on multiple held balls. She only had five points in the game, on five of six free throws, but played as big of a part as anybody in the win.
“Just having Naki help me out tonight was huge on defense,” Rodriguez said. “Whenever a girl got behind me I could count on Lauren to take the charge.”
At the end of three, the score was 25-24 in favor of Sonora.
The fourth quarter was a completely different story from the rest of the game. Sonora outscored the Lady Rams 20-9 in the quarter, and showed why they are a two seed and are favored to make a deep playoff run.
The late offensive onslaught was lead by the Sonora’s big three of seniors: Campos, Rodriguez and Avalon James. Campos had eight of her 16 points in the quarter, Rodriguez would not be out done, and had six of her 16 in the quarter. And James had all of her five points in the fourth.
“I think the end of the game was a huge testament to the seniors,” Barajas said. “They were struggling offensively throughout, but they stuck with the game plan and stayed composed.”
“Margo and Kylie really stepped it up at the end,” Nakahara added. “We realized that we needed to step it up if we were going to win and move on.”
The win sets up a rubber match with Agoura.
“We played them two years ago at their place and beat them,” Barajas said. “And they beat us last year.”
“We have unfinished business,” Campos added. “We need to take care of business.”
The players seem to be really excited for that game, and know that they have to step it up if they are going to win that one.
“I think we have grown up a lot since then,” Campos said. “Last year we went down and panicked, but I don’t see that happening this year.”
“We need to rebound and play defense better,” Rodriguez said. “When we do that, it can be an explosion on the court.”