No Yuma team has won the Southwest Rotary Classic since 2008.
That was until the Cibola Raiders administered a 73-59, wire-to-wire victory over the Dobson Mustangs in the Southwest Rotary Classic Championship Game at Cibola High School on Saturday.
Eric Ramirez’s fast break slam in the final minute, which sent the home fans into hysteria, epitomized the effort Cibola gave in the win.
“It means we’re playing pretty well right this second,” coach Ron Bratton said of the championship win. “We don’t want this to be the highlight of our season. I want more for these kids. It’s big for us to be able to tell other people, outside the people here, that we can play some basketball.”
Jason Sandoval scored a quiet 17 points, but it was the quick 11 points in the opening four minutes from Jason Pacheco that established the tone for the rest of the game. Pacheco connected on 3-of-3 from deep in the first quarter and finished with 15 in the game.
“That surprises me,” Bratton said of Sandoval’s 17 points. “He quietly does good things. You expect him to make open shots, so when he makes them it’s not a big deal. He can shoot the basketball and Pacheco provided a huge boost. It was big for our confidence and his confidence.”
The Raiders raced out to a 25-11 lead at the end of the first quarter due to their ability to spread the basketball around. Cibola finished with nine assists in the opening eight minutes of the game and 22 for the game.
“Honestly, it’s the cutting, the movement and the chemistry our team has,” Pacheco said about the success of the offense. “It could be any one of us to go have a big day.”
Almost every contributor had a big day for the Raiders offensively on Saturday.
Outside of Sandoval’s 17 and Pacheco’s 15, Ramirez finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Adrian Hernandez added 12 points. Chris Fernandez dropped nine points and Aldo Guevra contributed seven points off the bench.
Cibola’s starting five, energized by the home crowd, scored 66 of the 73 points in the 14-point win.
Bratton’s team controlled a 53-42 lead after three quarters, but it was their play in the early moments of the fourth quarter that stretched the lead.
The Raiders clamped down defensively, forced turnovers and opened up a 24-point led – their largest of the game. From there, Cibola’s quest to become champions was soon becoming a reality.
As well as the offense performed, the defense faced another difficult challenge in limiting Dobson’s Juhlawnei Stone’s production. The 6-foot-7 forward, who dropped 28 earlier this week against Yuma Catholic, finished with just 13 points.
“Probably going to give you the same answer as yesterday,” Bratton said in the defenses’ efforts to halt Stone. “We didn’t give him the same look every time down the court. Going zone one time and then man another, doubling him when he attacks the basket and just not letting him see the same thing every time going down the floor.
“He’s a Division I player. For our kids to hold him to (13 points), that’s really good.”
A coach and a team can learn a lot about themselves in early season tournaments like the Southwest Rotary Classic.
For Bratton, he observed how well his team moves the basketball on offense and they don’t need just one guy scoring. He also gave concerns about the physicality of his defense that generated some foul trouble.
“We give really good effort on defense, but sometimes we go a step past the rules line,” he said. “We’re a little late in getting over with the help. We just foul too much.”
Cibola demonstrated again why they are one of the top teams in Yuma. They get back into regular season play on Tuesday at Central (Calif.) before traveling to Gila Ridge on Thursday.