FAIRFIELD — The Mustangs can check off another first off their list.
The Rodriguez High boys basketball defeated Fairfield 72-61 for its first-ever win over the Falcons, Tuesday night, in nonleague play at Rodriguez.
The Mustangs (13-1) won the important battle on the scoreboard, but also won the emotional and physical battles as well.
Multiple technical fouls were called on each team, with one player being ejected, Fairfield (13-3) totaling 27 fouls to Rodriguez’s 29.
But the Mustangs clearly wanted to put its 14-game losing streak to Fairfield to rest.
“This feels good for the kids. I’m happy for the kids,” Rodriguez coach Nate Rankin said. “It was a really emotional game, a very physical game. It could have went either way. My biggest thing, when it’s highly emotional like this, it’s important that we try to keep things settled down.”
Even with all the fouls and emotions running high, the Mustangs were able to keep the Falcons in check.
“We expected it to be that emotional, that physical for what was at stake,” Rankin continued. “Rodriguez had never beat Fairfield since its inception. I was happy the way the kids played.”
Falcons coach Eddie Wilson was the first to admit that his team was simply beat.
“In reality, I just think they were better than us,” Wilson said. “They defended harder than we did, they rebounded better than we did, shot free throws much better than us. We didn’t seem to respond.
“I thought we would respond (to a physical game) a little bit better. I told my team I thought they were better than us in all aspects. They got coached better, they shot it better and they defended better. That’s the reality of it. When the other team plays better than you, they win.”
Rodriguez opened a 16-15 lead after the opening quarter and would never trail again. They went on to outscore Fairfield 14-11 in the second period, grabbing a 30-26 lead at the break when Rishod Abraham drained a 3-pointer for the last basket of the half.
The Mustangs took control of the game in the third quarter, outscoring Fairfield 25-15. The Falcons were within 32-30 in the opening minute of the period, but Rodriguez went on an 8-0 run to open a 40-30 lead.
Fairfield scored eight of the next 10 points to cut the lead to 42-38, but the Mustangs responded again, outpointing Fairfield 13-3 to end the frame with a 55-41 lead. The back breaker may have been a two-handed dunk by Torian Varner in the final seconds, his second of the game.
The Falcons put up 20 points to the Mustangs’ 17 over the final eight minutes, but never got closer than 64-54 with 3:02 left to play.
Abraham led the Mustangs with 27 points, while Kyle Williams had 15 and Varner 10. Keanu Williams led Rodriguez with 10 rebounds and Abraham grabbed nine.
Javon Adams led Fairfield with 17 points, with Sean Gray scoring 10, including three 3-pointers. Adams also snagged 10 rebounds.
With the loss, Wilson wants his team to learn from its mistakes.
“I think sometimes we approach the game with a little bit of arrogance,” the coach said. “We’re not as hungry as we need to be. My hope is that this is a slap in the face, a wake-up call that we have to work every day. It was physical and it was intense. I thought (Rodriguez) just got the best of us.”
As for Rankin, he wants his team to use this victory as a stepping stone, and wants his team to keep its respect for the Falcons.
“It’s a huge boost,” Rankin said. “I really like the way our guys are playing. They stayed in it. Fairfield, you know, is as great team. We still have respect for Fairfield. As an opponent, they are a very, very good team. They beat two (defending) state champions. My hat is off to Fairfield.”
Rodriguez won the JV game 48-37, with the Mustangs’ Robbi Balancio scoring 20 points. Cameron Ross-Reed led the Falcons with 10.
Reach Brian Arnold at 427-6969 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/barnolddr.