Sonora stays hot in Division III regionals


LA HABRA – Sonora won a CIF-SS championship Saturday.

When the Raiders showed up for practice Monday, their demeanor astonished Coach Mike Murphy.

“They said, ‘Coach, we’re really practicing?’ ” Murphy said. “I told them, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a game Wednesday.’ ”

And what a game Sonora had Wednesday. The Raiders walloped Valhalla of El Cajon, 101-76 in a CIF Southern California Regionals Division III first-round game at Sonora High.

Sonora (29-4) will play at Alemany of Mission Hills (22-8) on Saturday in the second round. Alemany beat West Bakersfield, 72-49, on Wednesday.

Raiders senior Ben Rico scored 34 points, his season high and nearly twice his average points per game. He made seven 3-pointers, including a calmly-made, buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the second quarter.

Senior point guard Josh Rodriguez had 16 assists to tie a school single-season record established by Sonora assistant coach Greg Vecchione when Vecchione played for the Raiders in 1998. Rodriguez also scored 19 points with five 3s. Senior forward Aashad Womack scored 17 points.

Rodriguez scored on a drive on Sonora’s first possession for a 2-0 lead and the Raiders began pulling away from there. They had an 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter, a 14-point lead at halftime and took an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter.

Despite the coach’s worries, the Raiders played, and talked, like they seek additional glory to go with the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA championship they won Saturday at Honda Center.

“We just want more,” Womack said. “Knowing we can do it, why not?”

Sonora qualified for the state tournament last year after losing in a CIF-SS championship game. The Raiders won in the first round of the regionals then lost to eventual CIF State champion St. John Bosco by 27 points in the second round.

Sometimes, teams are satisfied once they get to the top of the CIF-SS mountain.

“We’re just going to keep climbing,” Rico said. “We live to play more games.”

Murphy thinks this year’s team can surpass what last year’s did in the regionals.

“We’re way more focused this year,” Murphy said. “These guys are trying to get as far as they can in the state tournament. That’s the big difference.”

From that game-opening drive to the final buzzer, Rodriguez was in control. He passed up plenty of shots he could have taken to whip no-look passes to teammates or find them cutting to the hoop with bounce passes between defenders.

“Josh did whatever he wanted to do out there,” Murphy said. “He was in complete control of the game and Ben shot the ball like crazy.”

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