2016-02-19 / Sports

Highlanders subdue Spartans once again

Royal advances to face Redlands East Valley tonight
By Jonathan Andrade


THRILLER—Royal High boys’ basketball guard Paul Moore led the Highlanders with 17 points in a 50-40 win at Rio Mesa on Wednesday. 
MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers THRILLER—Royal High boys’ basketball guard Paul Moore led the Highlanders with 17 points in a 50-40 win at Rio Mesa on Wednesday. MICHAEL COONS/Acorn Newspapers Most teams don’t have the luxury of playing familiar foes in the postseason.

Royal and Rio Mesa highs’ boys’ basketball teams met for the second time in seven days, facing off in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A playoffs Wednesday at Rio Mesa.

The Highlanders built a healthy lead in the first half and held off the Spartans in a 50-40 win.

Royal (14-14 overall) plays host to Redlands East Valley (23- 5) in the second round at 7 tonight. Rio Mesa finished 10-18.

After Royal beat the Spartans 56-46 in the first showdown on Feb. 10, Highlanders head coach Craig Griffin kicked it up a notch at practice.

“(Griffin) gave us two great practices the past few days,” Royal senior forward David Garcia said. “They were really intense. He was pushing us.”

Griffin said he knew what to expect in the second matchup against Rio Mesa, but he was surprised by a few Rio Mesa defensive traps.

Royal responded well to the pressure and built a 15-point halftime lead by outscoring Rio Mesa 15-5 in the second quarter.

The second quarter was the difference in the game.

“It ends up being really important,” Griffin said. “I thought we played well defensively. When you hold people under 50, you’ll win almost anytime.”

Paul Moore, Royal’s senior guard, found himself open in 3-point territory on numerous occasions throughout the night. He sank four shots from beyond the arc to pace the Highlanders with 17 points.

The Spartans were down early, but Rio Mesa head coach Chris Ruffinelli wouldn’t let the Spartans hang their heads.

“We had to keep fighting,” Rio Mesa junior guard Justin Roque said. “We couldn’t keep our heads down and we couldn’t quit. We still had another half to play.”

Roque scored a game-high 22 points.

Nils Taylor, a senior center, played with fire by diving for loose balls, battling on the boards and jostling for position.

Rio Mesa, which struggled to find the basket all night, managed to cut its deficit to nine points in the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t shoot the ball very well in the first half, but we worked hard on defense,” Taylor said. “We played hard the whole entire game. Even if the balls went in or not, we played hard.”

The Spartans couldn’t catch Royal, but Roque said it was a memorable season.

“As a team, we stuck together,” he said. “We were a good group of guys that played hard all season long.”

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