Eagles bring home title despite big game from Gomez

— ONTARIO – Earlier this month, when the Rancho Christian boys’ basketball team found out they had fallen short of their goal of earning an CIF-SS Open Division bid, Eagles coach Ray Barefield asked his team what the next great thing they could do was? The answer was to bring home a CIF-SS Division 2A title. So, their focus was set on winning the program’s second championship in seven years.

Rancho Christian’s Martin Gumwel hoists their CIF Southern Section Division 2A championship plaque in celebration after the Eagles defeated La Mirada Saturday, Feb. 25, at Colony High School. Valley News/David Canales photo

At Colony High School, this past Saturday afternoon, the Eagles had to survive 32 points from La Mirada sophomore guard Julian Gomez and did just that, prevailing 63-55 over a Matadores team that just would not go away.

Down 5-4 at the midway point of the first quarter, Rancho Christian went on a 9-0 run to take a 13-5 lead. Rodney Brown’s layup and a three-pointer from Bailey Chambers finished the run. Gomez’ layup with under a minute left closed La Mirada’s deficit to five at 16-11.

“Julian’s been doing it all year for us and played a really good game tonight,” Matadores coach Randy Oronoz remarked. “We’re a third quarter team and have been all year but we had a number of mental lapses that you just can’t afford to have against a team of that caliber. Credit to Rancho Christian for making just enough plays to get the job done.”

A Gomez three-pointer tied the game at 19 with just over five minutes to go before the half. From there the Eagles outscored La Mirada 19-8 to take their largest lead at 38-27 after two quarters. Brown connected on a pair of three-pointers and a Kevin Patton Jr. layup at the buzzer closed the run.

“Even though he (Gomez) had 32 points there was a concerted effort to limit his touches. He’s a really good player who found a way to get his scoring and yet keep his guys involved,” Barefield remarked. “La Mirada runs a lot of good stuff and despite having a week to prepare for it we didn’t execute in some spots defensively. This group was 8-17 a year ago and took our lumps early on this season but those adverse situations and a tough schedule prepared us for this stage.”

Coming out of the half, Gomez, a sophomore who is garnering Big West attention, put La Mirada on his back and scored all 13 of the Matadores points. The 11-point lead was chopped to two points at 40-38 with 3:10 left in the quarter as Gomez was able to get to the basket and finish almost at will against Rancho Christian’s defense. A 9-2 run gave the Eagles some cushion with a 49-40 lead after three quarters.

“We knew that they were going to come out with energy after the half,” Patton Jr. said. “We’ve been in spots like that before and it’s about sticking together as a team, getting stops defensively, and executing offensively to answer them.”

On a pair of occasions at the midway point of the fourth quarter, La Mirada closed the gap to three points (Christopher Cuevas’ layup with 4:30 left made it 52-49 Rancho Christian while Gomez converted in the paint with four minutes left to make it 54-51 Eagles) but they’d get no closer. The Rancho Christian boys’ followed their girls’ team, on the same court, winning a CIF Southern Section championship, on the same day. A first for Eagles, putting them in an elite category in the CIF Southern Section history books.

Rancho Christian scoring:

K. Patton Jr. – 18, R. Brown Jr. – 16, B. Chambers – 8, K. Murphy – 8, M. Gumwel – 6, A. Nassar – 4, T. Davis – 3,

Three-pointers: Brown – 4, Davis – 1, Chambers – 1

La Mirada scoring:

J. Gomez – 32, S. Cervantes – 7, A. Sierra – 6, M. Torres – 4, C. Cuevas – 2, M. Smith – 2, A. Castillo – 2

Three-pointers: Gomez – 2, Sierra – 2, Cervantes – 1

Derryl Trujillo can be reached via email at socaltrekkie@gmail.com.

Derryl Trujillo

Derryl Trujillo has been a local sportswriter since 2018 and is the 2019 IEBCA Supporter of the Year award winner. He can be reached via email at socaltrekkie@gmail.com.