By Bonta Hill
On Monday night at Crusader Forum, spectators in the bleachers were all talking about Wednesday’s big game against University.
Riordan High School head coach Rich Buckner even had to stop himself from thinking too far ahead and focus more on struggling Balboa High School.
If the Crusaders did have their minds on University, it didn’t show, as they jumped on Balboa from the opening tip and easily disposed of the visiting Buccaneers 78-44.
Riordan (6-3) scored the game’s first 16 points and forced the Bucs (2-9) into 11 first-quarter turnovers as the Crusaders barely broke a sweat in Monday’s contest.
“I told my [team] to just take it one play at a time and let the chips fall where they may,” Buckner said. “We got a big game Wednesday, and I told the guys we’ll take care of University soon enough beginning at practice, but for now let’s just take care of business with what’s in front of us.”
Senior Aaron Anderson led a balanced Crusaders attack with a game-high 13 points, Jordan Dougherty chipped in with 12 points and Armani McFarland had 11 points and nine rebounds as Riordan shot 52 percent from the field.
“I think in any competition — high school, college or pro — it is human nature to play to the level of your competition,” Buckner said. “My favorite thing to say to my guys is, ‘I don’t care if you’re playing against my grandmother, I would expect you guys to kick her tail.’”
For Balboa, the early-season struggles continue as they trailed throughout the game. The Buccaneers found themselves down 23-7 after the first quarter and that was the closest they would get as Riordan went up by as many as 36 points in the second half.
“We have a lot of inexperienced [players], with three of my starters playing for the first time,” said Balboa head coach Val Cubales. “A lot of times we’re teaching them how to be poised, but it’s tough with the inexperience.”
The Crusaders’ full-court pressure would not let Balboa gain any composure, holding the Buccaneers to 38 percent shooting from the floor.
Riordan also forced 24 turnovers, something the Crusaders know will be vital against University’s high-powered offense. The Red Devils’ free-flowing, 3-point shooting offense has scored as many as 97 points this season.
“It is going to be about tempo, tempo and tempo. It’s going to be about who controls the pace of the game,” Buckner said about Wednesday’s showdown. “University likes to get it up and down the floor and shoot a lot of 3s, and we’re going to try to control that.”
Aaron Anderson – 13
Jordan Dougherty – 12
Brandon Edison – 12
Armani McFarland – 11
Anthony Castillo – 7
Fletcher Brown – 10
Jonathon Burnoski – 9
Nicholas Hom – 6
Logan Fletcher – 5
Two players tied with 4 points