boys basketball | La Habra Journal | Page 2

Posted on 07 December 2013 by La Habra Journal


Sonora guard Josh Rodriguez works against Canyon’s AJ Hernandez in the first half of Canyon’s 61-59 win, Saturday night at El Modena High. Photos by Jay Seidel, La Habra Journal

by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

ORANGE – In a battle of two highly-ranked county teams, the Sonora boys’ basketball team fell just short in the championship game of the El Modena Canyon Kickoff Classic, falling to Canyon 61-59, Saturday night at El Modena High.

The win by Canyon also delayed Sonora Head Coach Mike Murphy from earning his 500th career win as a high school head coach.

The Raiders (3-1) were left to play catch-up three times in the contest and showed an ability to do so until Canyon’s Nick Anderson hit a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left to break up a 57-57 tie.

Sonora’s Steven Murphy scored on a put-back on the Raiders’ next possession, but the Comanches iced the game with free throws.

“That’s a really good team,” Coach Murphy said about Canyon. “If we can hang tough with them the way we did tonight, that bodes well for us.”

Canyon’s Nick Anderson led all scorers with 27 points and helped the Comanches (4-0) pull away at the beginning of the fourth quarter with eight points.

Anthony Ballesteros torched the Raiders early, scoring 17 of his 18 points in the first half, but was effectively shut down after Coach Murphy made a defensive switch and had Adam Marlow stick with him.

“He is a stud, he can defend and he got after it,” Murphy said. “Anthony just killed us early until we put Adam on him. I know Anthony’s their best guy and I didn’t put our best defender on him early and that was a big mistake.”

In addition to Marlow’s shut down perimeter defense, the senior point guard led the Raiders in scoring with 18 points, while Murphy added 17 points by finding ways to get open in the center of the lane.

Ben Rico, who scored 30 points on Thursday night and had a game-winning shot on Friday, put up 15 points in the championship game.

Marlow went 7-for-7 from the free throw line, while Rico hit 7-of-9 free throws in a game that was slowed at times by foul calls.

“To be honest, I thought the officials did a good job,” Murphy said. “I may yell sometimes, but no one makes more mistakes than me. They do their best.”

After trading points to open the game, Ballesteros helped Canyon pull away with three 3-pointers and a pair of jumpers.

The senior point guard added one more 3-pointer early in the second quarter before Murphy called on Marlow to slow him down.

Meanwhile, Marlow kept the Raiders within reach, hitting both of his first-quarter shots and sinking four free throws in the second quarter to pull the Raiders within three points at halftime.


Sonora’s Ben Rico pushes the ball down court after collecting a rebound, while Canyon’s Kaleb Phillips and Anthony Ballestero pursue during the first half of Canyon’s 61-59 win, Saturday night at El Modena High.

The Raiders went inside to Murphy throughout the second half using a variety of screens and pick-and-rolls. Murphy scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half and twice made it to the free throw line after making easy buckets.

“That was the one place we knew we could get them, because they don’t have a lot of size,” Coach Murphy said. “We did a decent job of getting it to him, we just didn’t do it enough, our guys wanted to shoot the three and I keep telling them that it’s fool’s good, but we’ll learn.”

After fighting hard to tie the score at 42-42 heading into the fourth quarter, Anderson and Kaleb Phillips helped the Comanches score the first eight points of the final frame.

But behind Murphy’s continued inside presence and a trio of jumpers in the lane by Rico, Sonora tied it up at 53-53 with under three minutes remaining.

The teams went back-and-forth until Anderson drained his 3-pointer to put Canyon up for good.

Sonora had a pair of chances to get back in, but were unsuccessful on both tries.

“This tournament was great for us,” Murphy said. “We made so many mistakes and tried to correct those. I’m anxious to get to practice, we have to get better. This tournament exposed all of our weaknesses.”

The Raiders travel to Woodbridge next Wednesday, where Coach Murphy will have a second crack at earning his 500th victory.

Habra Sports Journal