FAIRFIELD — An ugly night on offense can usually spell disaster, but the Rodriguez High boys basketball team overcame that with solid defense and dominant rebounding to put away visiting Ygnacio Valley 59-44 in a nonleague matchup Thursday night.
The Mustangs shot a dismal 24.3 percent (19 for 78 from the floor, but kept the ball away from the Warriors by outrebounding the visitors 51-35.
Rodriguez also forced 30 turnovers in a game that was slowed by a malfunctioning scoreboard and shot clock.
“We’re still building. The thing is we’re going through a transformation,” said new Mustangs coach Nate Rankin. “Our guys, with each and every game, we can see growth. We’ve put all the building blocks in place, so I’m seeing the defense – we need to be doing a little bit more on the defense as far as numbers.”
Right away, the Warriors were able to take advantage of the Mustangs’ poor shooting, keeping it close throughout the first half. Rodriguez led 12-9 after a quarter and pulled away with a 7-2 run in the final minute of the half for a 31-23 advantage at the break.
Rishop Abraham started the outburst with a quick layup with 5 second left in the half, followed by a 3-pointer at the 24-second mark and a short jumper at the horn by Tim Moore. Moore led the Mustangs with 10 points, followed by Keanu Williams with nine. Johnny Shelton and Kyle Williams had eight each.
Inconsistency plagued both teams all night, though, as each had bursts of offense quickly nullified by turnovers or missed shots.
“The offense was horrible,” Rankin said. “But they eked it out, so that was good.”
Things really slowed down for the Mustangs in the third quarter when the Warriors outscored their hosts 12-10.
It was the exact opposite in the fourth, when Rodriguez had its best 5-minute stretch of the game.
After not hitting a shot through 2 minutes, 53 seconds of the fourth, Rodriguez finished the game on an 18-7 run.
Ygnaciao Valley closed the gap to 41-37 with a pair of free throws by Khalil Branch, who finished with a game-high 16 points.
But it was all Mustangs after that as Deshawn Hall pulled down almost everything that came his way – he finished with 12 rebounds.
A Torian Varner putback pushed the lead to 50-41 with 2:57 to play, the largest lead of the second half.
Another 7-2 run to finish the game – sealed with five straight free throws from Moore and Johnny Shelton set the final margin.
Rankin knows there’s plenty of room – and time – to improve.
“(We’re still) developing the team concept. I’m a first-year coach, so the thing is I’m just realizing my players,” he said. “I picked 12 guys on varsity and I had a long bench today. We’re still developing the whole bench. We’re really . . . changing the culture around here, of how our guys think. Not just being the athlete, but the student in the athlete.”
Rankin said that change is slowly taking shape.
“That’s what I kind of got on them today about. Because one of the cultural things we need to do is put the student back in the athlete,” he continued. “So far, at this particular juncture, it’s still early, I’m proud of my guys. Each and every game I see them growing, I see them believing in each other, trusting each other.”
In junior varsity action, it was all Rodriguez as the Mustangs won 72-44. Courtland McLean led with 12 points, Jordan Badger added 10 and Joshua Wilson had nine.