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Raiders take CIF basketball title

Posted on 11 March 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Sonora Raiders endured a slow first quarter to defeat Gahr High School and win the CIF 3AA Southern Section title, winning 66-54.LHJ Sonora CIF Finals 2015__2229_
The Raiders trailed by as many as nine points, but were propelled by a 16-0 run to surge past the Gladiators and secure the title.
Gahr scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, but the Raiders took over from there.
Down 51-44 with 6:45 left to play, the Raiders came out of the huddle with their sights set on victory, rather than a repeat of last years losing performance.
“We were about five minutes away from finishing it off,” Gahr High School head coach Ricky Roper said.
“We know exactly how Gahr feels, we’ve been through it. We all decided you know we’re not going to feel like this again,” Ben Rico said
Rico finished the game with 12 points and 14 rebounds and played the entire game.
Buckets by Rico and Ashaad Womack brought the Raiders within striking distance before Christian Rhodes tied the game at 51 with a three.
“I had no idea it was tied,” Rhodes said as he explained how difficult it was to see the score above their heads. “I looked up, I was like I just tied the game, we’re gonna win this right now. At that point I knew we were gonna get it.”LHJ Sonora CIF Finals 2015__0268_
Tied at 51 the Raiders steady defense allowed them to stretch their lead while keeping Gahr at bay. With a commanding lead and only a minute to go Josh Rodriguez and Rhodes sealed the game at the free throw line.
Rodriguez was the leading scorer with 16 points, eight coming in the fourth quarter.
“Some time in almost every game is going to be Josh’s time. He gets everybody involved, because we know that at any time in the game, he can do just about whatever he wants, he’s a special player,” Murphy said.
The game started with the two teams taking different approaches. The Gladiators started out red hot from behind the arc, knocking down 7-15 in the first half.
“That’s their game, they shoot about 40 threes a game, but at one point they hit 7 of 10,” Murphy said.
Meanwhile, Sonora committed to trading threes for twos.
The Raiders held a distinct size advantage, which allowed Steven Murphy to capitalize on both ends with 13 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks with no fouls.
“We couldn’t stay in front of those guards all the time and we were forcing them into Steven, and if he didn’t block the shot I think he altered almost every one of those shots,” Murphy said about his center.
Murphy was the Raiders’ most reliable target early in the game making all four of his shots. He finished the game shooting 6-8
“We can’t win a CIF championship without him, we got to have him in the middle, he anchors our defense and as you saw today, he was definitely the anchor of our team,” Murphy said.LHJ Sonora CIF Finals 2015__0830_
Womack bounced back from two early fouls to score eight of his 10 points in the third quarter.
“I had two early ones and I knew I had to help my team out more, so when I came out in the third, I just had to do my job, finish everything and that’s what I did,” Womack said.
“That was our game plan, give them the ball and let them finish,” Rhodes said.
The hot shooting Gladiators cooled off quickly and never seemed to snap back into form shooting 7-33 in the second half.
As the Raiders steady play continued they were able to gradually chip away. Kevin Marlow played all of the second quarter and added 3 threes in the second and third quarters.
Marlow came into the gym the week before in preparation for the game, which helped him feel comfortable shooting with this type of pressure.
“When you put a sophomore in, you never know what you’re gonna get,” Murphy said, “I was in the gym from 8:30 to 10 with him and he shot 2,500 shots. There’s a reason kids make those shots, not just a coincidence.
The Gladiators used a press the entire game, which is something the Raiders were unfamiliar to.
“We prepared for it all week and we were ready for their pressure and it showed in the outcome,” Rhodes said.
The turnovers were high, but between Rhodes and Rodriguez they were able to adjust to the pressure and move the ball effectively.
Sonora played a tough schedule in the preseason to pave the way for another run at a title, with 4 of 5 starters returning from last year’s team.
Experience from last year definitely came to the rescue, as the Raiders maintained a steady focus on inside scoring, and were able to persevere through the Gladiators hot shooting.
Rhodes especially benefitted from the experience, pushing through a rough beginning of the game.
“Junior year, if I’m having a bad game, it could take me out for the rest of the game and I’d be done, being a senior, being more confident I’m able to stick in there when I’m turning the ball over or something, I’ll come back and I’m ready for the next play,” Rhodes said.
The Raiders will keep this championship, but both teams will continue to play. Sonora plays Valhalla High School on Wednesday May 11 and Gahr will play El Cajon in CIF regional playoffs.

For a gallery of photos from the game, go to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lahabrajournal/sets/72157648982044893/

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Lady Raiders edge surging Highlanders

Posted on 16 February 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Sonora Lady Raiders basketball team held on against the Highlanders despite a second half surge to win 44-41.LHJ Sonora at La Habra basketball Jan 28, 2015

The Raiders held a commanding nine point lead coming out of halftime, but Amanda Cuervo and Ashley Bessler capitalized inside the paint to trim the lead and bring the Highlanders back into contention.

The Raiders balanced attack and tight pressure defense held the Highlanders in check, but in the second half the Highlanders forwards dominated the boards creating easy buckets for Bessler and Cuervo.

Out of halftime, Cuervo had only two points, but scored nine in the third and four points in the fourth to finish with 15.

Ashleigh Bessler was the Highlanders primary source of offense in the second and fourth quarters scoring six in both but was scoreless in the first and third quarters.

Marissa Dunn led the Raiders scoring nine points in the first half and playing lockdown defense on Highlander sharpshooter Emma Zener.

With seconds left on the clock, Meghann Henderson hit one of two free throws to give the Raiders a three point lead.

The Highlanders were able to get the ball down the court, but did not get a clean look for Zener who had the ball stripped from her as she went up for a three pointer.

The Raiders have been dangerous from behind the arc and knocked down five, compared to only 1 from the Highlanders

Henderson hit two threes in the second half, despite struggling to shoot for most of the game.LHJ LHHS vs SHHS Girls Basketball 2015

“We always tell her, you miss 100 shots, that just means you’re going to make the next 100. She never lost confidence, hit a big shot, we got a good steal, made a nice play in transition, it was kind of again that defense which led us to be able to score on offense,” said Sonora head coach Melissa Barajas.

The Raiders offensive attack was balanced between the entire starting lineup, with no points scored from the bench.

Marissa Dunn scored 13, Henderson had 9, Angela Rodriguez scored 10, Jazz Shedd scored 9 and Andrea Agramon had 3.

“It’s huge, because we had a lot of people make big plays today,” Barajas said.

Down the stretch Rodriguez was able to score inside despite spending most of the second half on the bench with foul trouble.

The Highlanders defensive pressure and rebounding allowed them to keep pace and put the Raiders in uncomfortable situations.

“Today we had a lot of turnovers, (which) puts you at a real disadvantage, we’ve got to do a real good job of taking care of that ball, while continuing to pressure teams and board,” Barajas said about things they can take from today.

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Raiders bounce Indians

Posted on 09 February 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Sonora Raiders battled with the Fullerton Indians before finally breaking through in the second half to secure a victory, winning 73-58.LHJ LHHS vs SHHS Girls Basketball 2015

The two teams were neck and neck after two quarters, with the Raiders leading 32-31.

The referees called an unusually tight game which forced both teams to spend more time shooting free throws than anything else.

“Those guys were calling a foul every possession, I thought it was the tightest of any game we’ve played in a couple of years, every touch was a foul, on both teams,” head coach Mike Murphy said.

Of the Raiders 32 first half points, half of them came from free throws, making 16-21. Fullerton meanwhile took 18 free throw shots and made 14 of them.

The Raiders struggled to shoot the ball, which made the free throws an ally for them to weather through their shooting slump.

“We haven’t been shooting the ball, I mean we can’t make shots, we finally started making shots in the second half and we were able to pull away,” Murphy said.

While the free throws kept the two teams close in terms of the scoreboard, there was a significant difference in bench depth. The Raiders carry 14 players compared to Fullerton’s 10.LHJ LHHS vs SHHS Girls Basketball 2015

The Raiders depth helped them survive foul trouble, while the Indians bench struggled as the game went longer.

Ben Rico had the hottest hand scoring 14 of his 24 points in the second half.

“He played his best defense that he’s played in a while, and he was really going after the ball, Murphy said, “I think that just got him fired up and the defense and the rebounding carried over into his offense and he had a nice game,” Murphy said.

Before the game, Rico was concerned with how his ankle would respond, but the it never appeared to be a factor.

“Once I got in the game, I think the adrenaline kicked in, I was feeling okay and totally forgot about it,” Rico said.

The third quarter was the best for the Raiders who outscored the Indians 26-12 to create an insurmountable gap.

“Some we come out as a team defending a little harder than others, but today I really made it my priority to play defense and guard my guy,” Rico said.

Josh Rodriguez finished the night with 20 points and 12-14 from the free throw line.LHJ LHHS vs SHHS Girls Basketball 2015

The Indians had a balanced scoring effort led by David Sandoval’s 11 points and 10 points from Gerritt Beetstra and Jacob Wirtzer.

Similar to the first game between Fullerton and Sonora, the game became very physical by the end.

Ashaad Womack left the first meeting with a dislocated knee, but played in his second game since returning from the injury.

“I told our guys, they do some things that shouldn’t be done, when you’re going to the basket and they’re pushing guys in the back, I just told our guys to keep their poise and just play through all of that,” Murphy said.

The Raiders will travel to Buena Park for their next game before finishing on Thursday against La Habra at home.

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Raiders battle Warriors to win on the road

Posted on 18 January 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

In a physical battle between the Raiders and Warriors, Christian Rhodes’ 23 points pushes the Raiders to a 72-69 victory.

Sonora's Christian Rhodes' 23 points helped lead the Raiders past Troy Friday.

Sonora’s Christian Rhodes’ 23 points helped lead the Raiders past Troy Friday.

“I am so beat up. I’m so beat up, I was taking shots all game long, Rhodes said, “but it feels good, that we came out with a victory.”

The Warriors (11-8, 1-1) were led by Jason Choi, who scored 29 points, leading all scorers on the night.

While the Raiders (15-3, 2-0) maintained a narrow lead the entire game, it was their lackluster defense which allowed Choi and the Warriors to hang around.

“I found out tonight we can’t play defense, not even a little bit. Not even a little bit, they’re barely interested in guarding, all we try to do is score. Worst defense I’ve seen in 25 years,” head coach Mike Murphy said.

Choi scored 10 points in the first quarter but was scoreless in the second and had 15 points after three quarters.

But after Sonora stretched their lead to 10 points, heading into the fourth, Troy began to surge.

“We not only couldn’t guard them, they scored in four seconds. We didn’t even resist a little bit. There was no resistance there tonight. We were awful, we were horrible,” Murphy said.

Choi went to work, en route to 12 fourth quarter points from the foul line and inside the paint.Sonora basketball vs Troy January 16, 2015

But Christian Rhodes also was in the midst of a fine night.

“Christian Rhodes was fantastic, he was fantastic, he played really well,” Murphy said.

Rhodes however was taking a beating in the process.

“I’m gonna go home and nap,” Rhodes said about his postgame plans.

After Rhodes drew contact on a fastbreak, Troy was called for a technical foul.

Rhodes was three for four from the foul line before the fourth quarter, but knocked down seven of eight in the fourth alone.

Murphy added four points in the paint, but the rest of the Raiders 14 fourth quarter points came on free throws.

During the third quarter, with just a four point lead coming out of halftime, coach Murphy let Kevin Marlow and Jason McClung start the quarter, instead of Ashaad Womack and Josh Rodriguez.

Rodriguez struggled with foul trouble the entire game, and Murphy preferred Marlow’s defensive effort.Sonora basketball vs Troy January 16, 2015

“Marlow played really big, those are the only two guys, we just can’t guard,” Murphy said about Marlow and Rhodes, “that’s all we’re gonna talk about for the next couple weeks.”

“We have such a deep team, one player goes down, the next one will step up and that’s what happened today,” Rhodes said.

When Murphy put his starters back, it seemed like a different team.

“If you don’t play with effort you don’t have  a chance,” Murphy said.

Womack looked inspired, hedging on screens, providing good help defense and looking for rebounds.

“He played a lot harder in the second half,” Murphy said about Womack.

With the change in intensity, the Raiders were able to get out on the break, creating open shots for their guards.

In addition to his defense, Marlow knocked down two three-pointers for six of his nine points.Sonora basketball vs Troy January 16, 2015

“It was amazing, if he doesn’t have those threes, we don’t win this game,” Rhodes said. “he’s got a lot of promise in the future, and we’re really lucky to have him,”

Christian Rhodes added two threes as well, and Steven Murphy continued his activity down low with 19 points in the game.

“Steven Murphy has been playing better every game, he’s getting better and better,” Murphy said.

Matt Mickle scored 14 points but only three came in the second half.

The Raiders and Warriors were separated by 2 points after the first quarter.

Josh Rodriguez scored his only five points in the first quarter.

Ben Rico had nine of his 10 points in the first half.

The Raiders will head to Fullerton on Wednesday January 21 for their next game.

Sonora basketball vs Troy January 16, 2015

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Raiders beat Friars despite loud crowd

Posted on 12 January 2015 by La Habra Journal

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.LHJ Sonora DBHS_BkBall_0228_
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.

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Heralds top Coyotes in tournament championship

Posted on 01 January 2015 by La Habra Journal

By Luke Wilson
La Habra Journal

Champions of the Leon Davis Holiday Classic were crowned Wednesday night, as the Whittier Christian Heralds defeated the Buena Park Coyotes 57-50. The third time proved to be the charm for the Heralds as it was their third straight appearance in the Leon Davis Classic Finals, but their first tournament victory.Leon Davis Champs Web


“We’ve hosted this tournament every year now for I can’t remember how many years,” said Whittier Christian Athletic Director Rolland Esslinger, “It’s a tough tournament to win. We’ve got close a few times over the last couple of years, and we had to beat a really good team to pull it off this year. It was a great game.”


The game was electric from the very beginning with both teams not taking long to establish their style of play. Buena Park immediately battered their way into the paint, earning offensive rebounds and early free throw attempts thanks in no small part to Forward Deontae Beckham who had six of the team’s eight free throw attempts in the first half.


“We kind of got exposed tonight with our defensive rebounding,” said Heralds Head Coach Sherwin Durham, “there are some athletic teams in this league, so we’re going to have to put a body on them.”


While rebounding wasn’t a strength for the Heralds in this matchup, they were able to put their own stamp on the game and show why they’re called the “Runnin’ Heralds.”


“We’re really good at running the floor,” said Heralds Forward Justin Osborn, who earned an All-Tournament mention, “that’s probably our biggest strength.”WCHS basketball vs Western Leon Davis Semifial 2014


Every time Whittier Christian yanked down a rebound, there were options streaking down the floor, usually led by Osborn who had 11 points with a 50 percent field goal percentage. Between fast break points, and effective 3-point shooting, the Heralds were able to make up for their rebounding.


The Heralds were raining down 3’s seemingly all match whenever there was an opening in the Coyotes zone defense, and it worked thanks to Guards Kaipo Villeza and Christian Alvis-Labadie who respectively shot 50 percent from behind the arc on a combined 12 3-point attempts.


“We don’t see a lot of zone defense, “ Durham explained. “We see a lot of man typically. We feel like we have some good perimeter shooters, and when these kids get open looks they tend to knock ’em down.”WCHS basketball vs Western Leon Davis Semifial 2014


Alvis-Labadie earned MVP honors for the Tournament after leading his team in scoring in the Finals with 16 points.

“It’s an honor. Hopefully I’ll be able to get another one soon,” Alvis-Labadiec said. Otherwise every comment was all team, team, team. “It feels real good to get Coach a tournament win. That means a lot to us.”


The game came down to the wire after a hectic fourth quarter. Frequent fouls, including a technical by the Coyotes, tipped things in the Heralds favor late. As the clock winded down, the Coyotes forced the Heralds to make free throws down the stretch, but a couple clutch shots from the line by Villeza were able to seal the deal and earn the eleventh win of the season for Whittier Christian.


The Heralds season rolls on Saturday, January 3 when they take on the La Serna Lancers at home at 6:30 p.m. This will be the last game for Whittier Christian before they begin their run through the difficult Olympic League.

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Heralds start strong to finish Western, advance to finals

Posted on 30 December 2014 by La Habra Journal

By Luke Wilson
La Habra Journal

The Whittier Christian Heralds advanced to the finals of the annual Leon Davis Classic on Tuesday night for the third straight year after riding a dominant first quarter to a 56-42 win over Western High School. WCHS basketball vs Western Leon Davis Semifial 2014

The Heralds started with a 10-0 run. Three steals over that span helped them get out and run the fast break, allowing them to extend an early lead.

“We knew we could jump on this team early,” said Herald forward Noah Evans, “We tried to do everything we could to get out to a fast start after a slow start last night.”

Whittier Christian Head Coach Sherwin Durham echoed the sentiment. “We came out with a lot of energy. I think these kids really wanted to get to the finals and now we have to finish the job.”

Western began making adjustments early to combat the slow start. Even after quickly subbing four players, and resorting to a full-court press early on, the Pioneers couldn’t get anything started in the first quarter. After eight minutes, the score was 18-2 Whittier Christian.

The high-octane scoring continued for the Heralds in the second quarter. Led by Evans and Forward Justin Osborn, Whittier Christian extended their lead to 32-12 at the end of the first half. Between Evans heating up from 3-point land, and Osborn leaking out in transition, Western couldn’t spark any sort of a run.

When the second half began, it was clear that the Pioneers wouldn’t allow a start similar to the first half. While they weren’t able to do a lot in the third quarter to slow down the Heralds, they did get their offense going with some key 3-pointers and some well-earned free throws. After a high scoring third quarter, the score was 53-28 Whittier Christian.WCHS basketball vs Western Leon Davis Semifial 2014

The fourth quarter was where the Pioneers began their comeback. Starting with a 7-0 run, Western did everything they could to get baskets inside and draw fouls to close the gap. Weathering the storm with some clutch aid from Guard Christian Alvis-Labadie, Whittier Christian was able to hold onto the lead to earn their tenth win of the young season and officially punch their ticket to a third straight Leon Davis Classic Finals appearance.
Memories of last season’s Leon Davis Classic conclusion are still fresh in the Heralds’ minds. In their repeat finals appearance, the Heralds were defeated, and they are determined to do things differently this time around.

“We’ve got to stay focused,” said Coach Durham, “We’ve got to finish our mission and do what we came to accomplish tomorrow.”

The finals of the Leon Davis Classic will pit the Heralds against the Buena Park Coyotes who come into the game holding a 10-2 record.

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Raiders start North OC Tourney strong

Posted on 18 December 2014 by La Habra Journal

By Erik Markus
La Habra Journal

The Sonora Raiders basketball team cruised through their first two games of the North Orange County Tournament.

Driving: Sophomore Kevin Marlow takes the ball down court during Sonora’s 71-54 win against Diamond Bar High School Monday afternoon.

Driving: Sophomore Kevin Marlow takes the ball down court during Sonora’s 71-54 win against Diamond Bar High School Monday afternoon.

The Raiders started with a 71-54 win over Diamond Bar, and then dominated Long Beach Wilson winning 79-32.
The Raiders could be playing up to 5 games in 6 days, if they continue to play this well.
Much of the Raiders success can be attributed to the hot shooting from seniors Josh Rodriguez and Christian Rhodes.
In the two games, Rodriguez has scored 43 total points and Christian Rhodes has scored 49 points between the two games.
Christian Rhodes was shooting especially well against Wilson scoring 30 points in just three quarters.
“It’s always fun when you’re shooting like 90 percent from the 3 point line,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes wanted to go after the school record of 43 points, but Murphy had different plans.
“You know with Christian the school record would probably be 60 if I let players play all four quarters in games like this,” Murphy said describing a conversation with his shooting guard.LHJ Sonora DBHS_BkBall_0385_
“Christian Rhodes was just on fire, he just had a remarkable game,”
Rhodes got off too a quick start, knocking down his first two three pointers and ended up with 12 points in the first quarter.
“I always have confidence, but normally I’m a pass first kind of player, and so tonight I was feeling it so then I became a shoot first, and they just kept going in,” Rhodes said.
He continued his hot shooting adding 13 in the second quarter, though most of these came from easy layups as the Raiders were able to get out in transition.
The pace the Raiders played at was indicative of the pace they’d like to play moving forward.
With Rodriguez and Rhodes creating a constant outside threat, they were able to open up the inside game where Steven Murphy was able to finish three untouched layups.LHJ Sonora DBHS_BkBall_0610_
“Dude its ridiculous, like nobody can guard us if we make shots, its literally impossible,” Rodriguez said.
“I was so happy for Steven,” Mike Murphy said as he compared how strong his performances were down the stretch last year.
“He started to break out a little bit against Woodbridge, and then tonight Josh found him four or five times with some great passes, and Steven finished really nicely,” Murphy said.
In addition to their red hot shooting, the Raiders played lock down defense forcing tough shots the entire game.
“Our team is a high powered offense, so most of the time our practices focus on defense, and our offense is always going to be there, but our defense keeps increasingly getting better, that’s just only going to help us out in the long run for playoffs,” Rhodes said.
The Raiders led after the first quarter up 23-8, and were up 44-17 at halftime.LHJ Sonora DBHS_BkBall_0266_
The Raiders struggled with foul trouble in the first two quarters, but you would never have noticed based on their body language.
“They responded way better, their body language was much better, we’ve been talking about it, Murphy said.
After Friday’s game against Woodbridge, Murphy wanted to make sure they paid attention to their emotions.
“They’re 16 and 17 year old kids, and they’re emotional and they play with a lot of emotion, and that’s what makes us good too, the fact that they care so much and they play with that intensity,”
With the game under control Murphy let the bench get some valuable minutes together, allowing Sophomores Bryce Rutledge, Austin Carter, and Kevin Marlow to develop some chemistry together.
The Raiders next step will be in the knockout rounds, where they will start on Thursday night.

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Adam Marlow’s behind-the-scenes type of work a leading factor in successful year for Raiders

Posted on 20 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Sonora's Adam Marlow was regarded as the team's best defender and often sacrificed his offensive game to focus on defending opposing players that were often much taller than him.

Sonora’s Adam Marlow was regarded as the team’s best defender and often sacrificed his offensive game to focus on defending opposing players that were often much taller than him.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

For the Sonora boys’ basketball team, senior Adam Marlow knows that being a team leader is more than just barking orders and giving inspiring team speeches.

In a historic season that saw the Raiders make a CIF Championship appearance for the first time since 1984, the senior didn’t just do everything the team needed from him, he anticipated those needs and put himself in position to help his team succeed.

Though Adam’s contributions won’t be seen on a stat sheet, without them, the Raiders wouldn’t have enjoyed the amount of success they earned this season.

“[He has] unbelievable leadership skills, that’s the first thing,” said Mike Murphy, Sonora head coach. “To be a great point guard and a great leader is an added bonus and he’s been that way since he first walked on our campus. This year, he’s really the heart and soul of our team, you read about Josh and you read about Ben and they’re scoring all the points, but the guy that stirs the drink and keeps the team together. I’ve been coaching for 29 years and I can’t think of five other guys that I’ve enjoyed coaching more than him.”

Adam has been a varsity starter since his sophomore year and in each season since, the Raiders have seen an improvement in their overall record while still facing the same tough competition.

While his sophomore year was about pushing himself to becoming a mainstay in the starting lineup, it was during his junior season that he recognized the need for a leadership presence.

“We didn’t really have a captain, no one really stepped up to be a leader, so I thought if I could have played that role a little better, our season would have been different,” he said.

During that same timeframe, Adam developed into the Raiders best defensive player and was constantly given the task of trying to shut down the oppositions’ best players.

Realizing that role, Adam often sacrificed his offensive scoring ability to focus on his defense as well as to help set up his teammates on the offensive side.

“He brings a lot of intangibles,” Murphy said. “It’s a specific skill set that you have to have and he’s our best athlete, fastest, strongest and quickest from side to side and that makes him our best defender. We’d find the best guy on the other team and assign him to Adam.”

To take it a step further, Adam would approach his head coach with suggestions on defensive strategy that often involved him switching to the opposing player that was causing the most damage at that particular point of the game.

Some of these situations involved the 6-foot senior guarding a 6-foot-8 forward. Such was the case when the Raiders went up to Santa Maria, where Adam attempted to limit Cameron Walker, the Warriors’ 6-foot-8 forward.

Adam attributes his defensive abilities to his commitment to getting stronger in the weight room, something he started after he was called up to varsity during his freshman season.

“When I got moved up, I got a chance to practice with guys like Raffi [Chalian], Tyler [Thomas], they were grown men,” Adam said “I had close to the same skill set as them, but I wasn’t nearly the athlete that they were and that’s when I realized that if I put in time in the weight room, it could help me a lot more than working on my skills every day.”

When it comes to his leadership and competitiveness, Adam’s long-lasting friendship with Whittier Christian senior Ryan Esslinger, who played football and basketball, may have a lot to do with it.

“Growing up with him, he’s just as competitive as me. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as competitive as me, except for him,” Adam said. “Seeing him on the football team this year as the starting quarterback, he’s just a stud, I was so proud of him, but it also made me want to be like him and do what he did on the football field while I was on the basketball court. It was still a competition thing, but we really push each other to be the best that we can be.”

When the team absolutely needed points late in ball games, Adam had the ability to hit clutch shots as well.

In the Raiders’ first game against Sunny Hills in Freeway League play, Adam drove inside for two tough layups late in the fourth quarter to break a tie game and give Sonora enough separation to win the ball game and take sole possession of the Freeway League lead, which the Raiders held for the rest of the season.

In other situations, he made the extra pass to junior teammates Ben Rico, Josh Rodriguez and Steven Murphy who often hit open shots as a result.

“Only the people in the program really know the value that he added to our team. He’s very poised and whatever we needed, he supplied,” Murphy said. “One of the biggest struggles we had was moving the ball quickly, but the guy who sacrificed his offensive game to help make that extra pass was Adam. Ben Rico broke the scoring record this year and that had a lot to do with it.”

But even more than his contributions on the court, Adam was an example off the court, often demonstrating certain gameplans for teammates and using his work ethic as a way to motivate his teammates.

When it came to leading a group of talented players, including four junior starters by season’s end, Adam admitted that it wasn’t always easy.

However, he also said he wouldn’t trade them for anyone else.

“I’ll never forget this year, that’s for sure,” he said. “This was my team and it was something that you never want to end and at times it felt like it was never-ending, I’ll never forget these guys.”

While Adam hasn’t committed to a school at the next level yet, he said that Chapman University, Vanguard University and Cal State Los Angeles have all expressed interest.

Along with his leadership abilities, his abilities on the court and his commitment to improvement off the court, Adam also boasts a stellar performance in the classroom, maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

During his senior year, he enjoys taking AP Calculus as he’s always liked Mathematics. He also enjoys Psychology.

Adam looks up to his parents as role models for their constant support and always being willing to take time out of their day to drive him to workouts and practices.

In terms of his sport, it came as no surprise that Adam said he looked up to his head coach, Mike Murphy.

“I always look up to him, he got me to work harder than anyone else in my life,” Adam said. “When I got here I was pretty lazy, but the way he gets people to work hard, he just inspires us.”

When he’s not in the classroom or on the court, Adam enjoys playing video games with friends and also has picked up surfing as a steady hobby in the summer.

But while he has a couple months left as a high school senior, Adam’s goal is to maintain his grades and prepare for an opportunity to play basketball at the next level.

“We’d love for the community to come out and see Adam, he’s a great example of what it is to be a Raider, if you come to this program, this is how you turn out,” Murphy said. “I’m hoping that the colleges in the area will see that he’s a kid they need in their program. He just needs an opportunity and if he gets that opportunity, he’ll make the most of it.”

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Early push not enough as Raiders fall to St. John Bosco in South Regional quarterfinals

Posted on 15 March 2014 by La Habra Journal

Josh Rodriguez scored a game-high 28 points, but the Raiders fell to No. 1 St. John Bosco 94-67 in the CIF State Southern Regional quarterfinals, Saturday night at St. John Bosco High.

Josh Rodriguez scored a game-high 28 points, but the Raiders fell to No. 1 St. John Bosco 94-67 in the CIF State Southern Regional quarterfinals, Saturday night at St. John Bosco High.

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

Early in the second quarter of its quarterfinal matchup in the CIF State South Regional playoffs, the Sonora basketball team had executed its way to a nine-point lead over No. 1 St. John Bosco thanks to a quick start by its two leading scorers, which forced the Braves to take a timeout.

Unfortunately, the Braves came storming back with a 21-4 run to close out the half and shooting guard Jesus Zesati torched Sonora with 17 points in the third quarter as St. John Bosco ended the Raiders’ season with a 94-67 win, Saturday night at St. John Bosco High.

Zesati’s efforts helped the Braves turn an eight-point halftime lead into a 22-point advantage at the end of the third quarter and St. John Bosco cruised to the quarterfinal win in from there.

“Our game plan was not to guard [Zesati], we were going to take Steven [Murphy] and play him in the middle because we figured they would post up on our little guards, which they did,” said Mike Murphy, Sonora head coach. “Then [Zesati] goes off and hits five 3-pointers on us and that was the difference. When he hit those shots, it changed us up and we didn’t react well to it. That’s a hard team to guard.”

However, early in the contest, it was Sonora that put the pressure on, maintaining a slim lead after the first quarter and building upon it with long-range shooting to start the second quarter.

Guards Josh Rodriguez and Ben Rico combined for six 3-pointers in the first 10 minutes and accounted for 28 of Sonora’s 30 points before Braves’ coach Derrick Taylor called timeout with 5:55 remaining in the first half.

“We had nothing to lose coming into this game, we thought we could beat them,” Rico said. “We came into this game with a lot of confidence and we played hard, it just wasn’t enough. They’re a great team, we gave it all we had, it just didn’t go our way tonight.”

The timeout reenergized St. John Bosco (20-11), which matched Rodriguez and Rico’s long distance shots with seven 3-pointers of its own in the second quarter alone.

Guard Tyler Dorsey and forward Vance Jackson helped the Braves pull even before Zesati drained two 3-pointers late in the quarter to give St. John Bosco a 42-34 lead at the break.

“We just wanted to slow them down, not take wild shots and we wanted to take advantage of our size and quickness,” Taylor said. “We just wanted to slow things down. We knew we could score, but we didn’t give ourselves a chance by jacking up long shots. In the second half, we played really well.”

Ben Rico (shown against Monache) scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half, but Sonora fell to St. John Bosco 94-67, Saturday night at St. John Bosco High.

Ben Rico (shown against Monache) scored 14 of his 22 points in the first half, but Sonora fell to St. John Bosco 94-67, Saturday night at St. John Bosco High.

Senior forward Daniel Hamilton also had an efficient first half for the Braves, leading the team with 15 points. He and Zesati led the team with 23 points each.

Hamilton also came down with a game-high 10 rebounds.

Focusing on Hamilton, Dorsey and Jackson in the third quarter, the Raiders left Zesati alone and the junior forward made them pay.

“Our game plan was to take away their best players, like Dorsey and Hamilton, but the other guys stepped up big time,” said Adam Marlow, senior leader.

Zesati hit three 3-pointers and added a pair of three-point plays when he was fouled on two layups.

The Raiders could not match the performance as shots began to miss their mark.

“Early on, we played like we could play, we were driving, kicking and guys were hitting their shots,” Murphy said. “As the game progressed, we got away from that, we took some bad shots and then we just couldn’t stop them.”

Rodriguez added nine of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, but the St. John Bosco lead was insurmountable and the Braves earned a spot in the Division 2 South Regional semifinals.

“I thought there were times where Josh was the best player on the floor,” Murphy said. “He was the guy out there scoring, stealing and making plays. When he has a smile on his face, you know he’s playing well.”

Rico finished with 22 points, while Adam Marlow contributed with nine assists.

Sonora finishes the season with a 29-5 record and the program reached the CIF-SS Finals and the CIF State Championships for the first time in over 30 years.

“It’s pretty great and I’m really proud of this team, I can always look back and say that this was my senior year that we accomplished this,” Marlow said. “I’m pretty proud as a senior and it’s something I’ll never forget.”

The Raiders will lose six seniors to graduation after this season, most notably Marlow and Roy Saucedo, but will return three every day starters and one spot starter for next season.

In addition, Murphy has a fifth player in Jason McClung who earned plenty of experience this season and also shared plenty of excitement over the underclassmen coming in next season.

“They have a different style of athlete than we do and that’s going to make it tough for anyone who makes it this far,” Murphy said of St. John Bosco. “We’re going to get better, we have some size next year and we have a really good group coming up from the JV team, which was a 10-0 team. It’s exciting.”

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