The anticipation leading up to the rematch of the Rio-El Camino game was built out of the heart wrenching game in Rio’s gym only two and a half weeks ago.
The first time around, El Camino, with the help of some questionable calls, got the better the Raiders in double overtime.
In both games Rio had leads going into the half, and El Camino came back relatively early in the second half.
Round two was a different story.
On Tuesday the Raiders held on to the lead to win 64-55 and got the revenge they were looking for after losing on their home court.
“The first game was terrible. We are 2-0 against El Camino in my book,” said junior Chase Hamersley.
Rio got off to a very quick start behind a few drives from senior Zack Suarez. El Camino did not flinch, though.
The Eagles utilized a full-court press for the entire game, which helped them force turnovers that were converted into layups and free throws.
The easy El Camino baskets were canceled out by senior Matt Laffey. Laffey had a breakout game in front of the ominous away crowd. He came out after hitting a pair of free throws after he was hobbling around the court with what appeared to be a leg injury.
Once Rio figured out how to break the press, though, they closed the gap and eventually took the lead that would stand through the majority of the second half.
After the break, Rio quickly extended its lead, courtesy of senior Kyler Joaquin, who scored 18 in the game, and Suarez, who scored 11. The two scored at will in the third quarter to counter El Camino’s short bursts of scoring.
After the Eagles hit a pair of threes in the fourth quarter, junior Luke Moore committed what looked to be a costly travel, but he would quickly make up for it.
He grabbed clutch offensive rebounds, scored on a couple put-backs, and came up with a huge block on El Camino’s last stand.
In a last gasp effort, the Eagles intentionally fouled Nishi four times. He converted on six out of his seven attempts from the free throw line to finish with 10 points and seal the huge win for the Raiders.
By that point the game was already over. Suarez and Joaquin were laughing while Nishi was at the line.
The bench was celebrating, too. When junior Jordan Cloud was subbed out with under 30 seconds left in the game, he was greeted by his teammates with high fives and smiles.
The victory meant the world to the Rowdy Raiders, the student cheering section, as well.
“We came. We saw. We got the job done,” said Alex Najera, president of the Rowdy Raiders.
The game meant the world to the team’s hopes of making playoffs this year, too. The victory came in a must win environment and proved the team’s resilience bouncing back from a thrashing against league-leaders Antelope.
In the next few weeks, Rio will need to play their best every game if they still want to make the playoffs, and Tuesday was a perfect start.