The action-packed annual Jack Scott Tournament took place last week and ended with Rio on top. The bracket consisted of three rounds, each team needing two wins to reach the final.
The Raiders faced the Monterey Trail Mustangs out of Elk Grove in the first round. An exciting back and forth first quarter opened the bout.
The Mustang’s junior guard, Elijah Shung, attacked the hoop well early, and would keep Trail in the game. However, Rio created separation thanks to consistent fast break points that led to a big 13-3 run to start the second half.
Senior center Jonah Roth led the charge defensively with big blocks that created opportunities in transition. Senior Jake Paxton and junior Denzel Harris made great passes to set up open shots.
“If you just protect the paint, get rebounds and make sure they can’t penetrate then you have a good chance of winning.” said Roth. “If you prevent the highest percentage shots from being made, then you have a good chance of winning.”
As the third quarter went on, Trail began to make a run, cutting into the Raiders’ lead. However, thanks to the Mustangs’ horrendous shooting down the stretch and Senior Cole Ramazzini’s four point play, Rio pulled away to advance to the semi-final.
Friday night was the highest-attended game of the three Rio played, and the deafening student section became the sixth man. The Raiders took on the Ponderosa Bruins for a chance to move onto the championship.
“We actually had a play where we were forcing weak side [towards the student section],” said senior Roan Karavani. “[The students] were sitting there screaming at whoever had the ball.”
A turnover-ridden first half cost Rio a shot at building a lead between them and the Bruins. However, when they weren’t turning it over, they produced good mis-matches in the paint. Roth not only continued to play well defensively, but also made shots from the post.
Into the second, the Raiders continued to shoot themselves in the foot by giving the ball away. The game was close heading into the half, thanks to Ponderosa taking advantage of Raider mistakes.
Rio made many adjustments coming out of the half that greatly payed off. They started getting more open looks from outside and not missing. Heading into the fourth, the Raiders held an eight point lead.
“We knew if we bought into each other and knew if we all played like we know we can that we would see the result we wanted.” Roth said.
For the second night in a row, Rio absolutely dominated the fourth quarter. Jake Paxton lead the charge, using his dribbling to create space and open his teammates up for shots.
Ultimately, Ponderosa was overwhelmed as the Raiders who pulled off a 68-49 victory to advance to the championship game.
That contest against Del Campo was held on Saturday night, with most excited Rio fans wearing white. However, that buzz did not last with the Cougars going on a 10-0 run to start play.
The Raiders allowed this by committing costly fouls and turnovers. Some of those fouls did appear to be poor calls from the officiating, which had been consistently good to that point in the tournament.
Quickly forgetting this run, the Raider’s offense was sparked by Paxton who made plays getting to the rack, showing off great ball handling. In addition, Roth threw down a huge dunk to contribute to a momentum-shifting 13-3 run.
Following this run was an ugly, low scoring second half. Both teams committed constant turnovers in a hugely physical battle. The Cougars would ultimately be leading at halftime.
The third quarter was Paxton’s time to go off. The Rio guard sparked a comeback, cutting Del Campo’s lead to three.
“Their best player was a big man, and we had to take him out of the game and shut him down,” Paxton said.
The Raiders went on a massive run throughout the third quarter, and while the crowd was the loudest of the weekend, they held a 43-38 lead headed into the final period of the tournament.
To begin the fourth, Del Campo was able to draw within three, courtesy of two costly Paxton turnovers. After a Raider timeout, Cole Ramazzini buried an open three.
Down the stretch in every game of the tournament, Rio’s defense tightened. Saturday was no exception, with one amazing stand made by Roth and junior James Davies.
When a Cougar player drove to the hoop and had an open look, Roth came seamingly out of nowhere to swat the ball away. Another Del Campo player picked it up and went up again, only to get rejected by Davies.
“As a team we really came together and put our focus into the game plan,” Paxton said. “We hustled, played one hundred percent, got rebounds and did the little things on defense and offense.”
Moments later, Paxton found Roth for yet another dunk to seal the game. Rio hit their free throws in the closing minutes and would go on to beat Del Campo 63-51 to win the Jack Scott Tournament.