Rivalry games are always fun, especially when you win … on your home court.
And the Righetti Warriors had fun Tuesday night, defeating their crosstown rival Pioneer Valley Panthers 67-53 in a Mountain League game at Righetti High School.
The Panthers’ Steven Fuerte put on a scoring clinic, scoring a game-high 25 points, while teammate Elijah Bloodworth added 15, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Warriors’ balanced offensive attack with Caleb Thomas scoring 13 points and both John Costa and Canaan Reynolds adding 12 apiece.
That and a stifling defense that switched between man-to-man and zone made shots difficult to come by for any other Panthers.
“We did a good job switching defenses,” said Righetti coach Kevin Barbarick. “The boys did a good job of communicating and switching from man to zone seemed to confuse Pioneer Valley a little bit.”
“Their inside-out game was really effective,” said Pioneer Valley coach Ross Rivera. “They were getting the ball to 44 (Thomas) inside and he’d get it right back out to an open man. Their ball movement was really good and they hit their threes.”
“Our guys did a good job of executing against their zone,” said Barbarick. “We kept trying to get the ball inside so Caleb, he was fantastic tonight, Canaan or Jackson (Moore) could get an easy shot but, if they didn’t have an open shot, they did a good job of finding the open man on the outside.”
Righetti managed to pull out to a three-point lead, 11-8, but Pioneer Valley tied the score at 11-all with just under a minute left in the first quarter.
Caleb Thomas hit two free throws to put the Warriors up 13-11 after the first quarter.
Leading 17-16 with just under five-minutes left in the half, Righetti went on a 10-0 run to open up a 27-16 lead.
Jackson Moore got the run started with a rebound and putback. After a missed Pioneer Valley shot, Reynolds drained a 3-pointer from the left of the key. Thomas then stole the ball and drove in for a layup and Reynolds hit another 3-pointer, forcing Rivera to call a time out with 2:19 left in the half.
The Panthers re-groups and closed out the second with a Daniel Vazquez jumper and a driving layup from Fuerte to keep Pioneer Valley in the game, trailing 27-20 at the half.
When Fuerte grabbed a rebound and put it back, the Panthers had cut their deficit to three, 31-28, with 3:54 left in the third quarter.
“Steven was doing everything out there. He was all over the place,” said Rivera. “He was all over the place the entire game. He played nearly every minute. He only came out for a short breather in the fourth quarter.”
Righetti’s Jeremy Reece came right back and swished a three but Fuerte drove in for a layup and later hit two free throws to trim the Warriors’ lead to two, 34-32, with 1:38 left in the third.
Righetti responded with a 7-0 run, all seven points coming from Costa.
Costa hit a three from the top of the key, stole the ball and raced in for a fast break layup and stole it again for another one man break to put Righetti up 41-32.
“John did a good job of controlling our offense,” said Barbarick. “He played his most complete game of the season.”
Bloodworth hit a three at the end of the quarter to cut Righetti’s lead to six, 41-35.
But Costa was back at it to open the fourth quarter with another steal. He fed the ball to Aaron Ruiz who hit a baseline jumper for a 43-35 lead.
Reynolds made it a 10-point lead with a 3-pointer with just under four-minutes left in the game but Fuerte swished a three seconds later to cut the Righetti lead back to seven.
Righetti put the game out of reach with an 8-0 run over the next two minutes,
Righetti’s Joon Soo Lee sank two free throws, stole the ball and nailed a three from the baseline for five of his nine points. The three-ball realistically put the game out of reach.
“Joon Soo did a great job off the bench,” said Barbarick. “He was really aggressive and gave us a spark when we needed it.”
Thomas was fouled going up for a layup, the ball went in and Thomas hit the foul shot and the Warriors were up 63-48 with 1:54 to go in the game to seal the Warriors’ win.
In addition to Fuerte’s 25 and Bloodworth’s 15, Vazquez, with eight points, and Mark Cabeliza, with five, were the only other Panthers’ player to score.
“Our kids played hard — they worked their butts off,” said Rivera. We only made three 3’s — it’s hard to win when you only hit three 3’s.”
“We’ve played a lot of tough teams, tough games,” said Barbarick. “The boys are playing with a lot more confidence. They are really growing into a good team. I’ve seen tons of improvements.”
Pioneer Valley (3-16, 0-3 Mountain League) hosts Paso Robles on Thursday.
Righetti (4-13, 2-1) is at Mission Prep on Saturday.