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Sonora remains on point in victory
LA HABRA – Sonora coach Mike Murphy had to go back 20 years to make the comparison.
The subject was his team's 5-foot-11 sophomore point guard, Josh Rodriguez. Rodriguez had just scored 22 points with six assists to help the Raiders beat Capistrano Valley, 68-56, Friday in a North Orange County Championships boys basketball semifinal at Sonora High.
"The guy he reminds me of is Chris St. Clair," Murphy said. "And that was a long time ago."
St. Clair was the Orange County Player of the Year for the 1992-93 season, his senior year at Sonora. St.Clair went on to play at Cal State Fullerton and now is men's basketball coach at Cypress College where he, oddly enough, replaced Paul Bottiaux who had coached for many years at Sonora in the 1970s and '80s.
Rodriguez made his first four shots, all 3-pointers. Sonora senior forward scored a game-high 23 points with 11 rebounds.
Sonora (8-1) will play Mayfair of Lakewood in the tournament championship game Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Sonora. Mayfair defeated Aliso Niguel in the other semifinal Friday.
In a matchup of South Coast League teams, Capistrano Valley (3-7) will play Aliso Niguel in the third-place game at 6 p.m. at Sonora.
Ayman Farah led Capistrano Valley with 16 points. The Cougars' best player was junior Jacob Short, who scored 12 points with five rebounds in the first half, then turned his left ankle early in the third quarter and did not return.
"The key to the game wasn't anything I came up with," Murphy said. "It was when No. 13 (Short) went down. That guy's a player."
With Rodriguez making the four 3-pointers and Jimmy Golden making two 3s, Sonora had a 24-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Capistrano Valley made six of its 11 shots in the second quarter, during which Sonora made only 3 of 11, and the Cougars tied it, 33-33, going into halftime.
The Raiders outscored the Cougars by nine in the third quarter to take control. Rodriguez scored on a buzzer-beating drive for the period's final points.
Golden scored five points in the first minute of the fourth quarter, and Sonora was on its way to the tournament championship game.
Rodriguez, who was 7 for 12 from the floor and made both of his free throws, said there was no big secret to his scoring success Friday.
"I was just moving around," Rodriguez said. "I know teams are going to try to deny me the ball, so I just started moving around and when I got it I just shot it."
Murphy was unsure how many times Sonora has won the tournament the school has played host to in the event's 23 years. The Raiders last won it four years ago.
If Sonora does beat Mayfair to win the tournament again, Murphy expects Rodriguez to be a major contributor.
"He's got the 'it' factor," Murphy said. "He's got a great feel for the game, and you can't teach that or coach that. It's God-given."
But, being a sophomore, Rodriguez's basketball education is just beginning.
"He makes a lot of great passes," Murphy said. "As he learns more and get's older, he's going to cut back on his turnovers."
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