Looking to earn a measure of redemption for a pair of losses earlier in the season, the Rich High School boys’ basketball team hosted Mount Vernon and Wendover last weekend, with mixed results.
The Rebels (12-8, 4-2 in Region 22) began the weekend Friday with an impressive 68-58 dismantling of Mount Vernon, a team that won the first meeting of the two in January.
“Our win against Mount Vernon — we had that game circled on the calendar since the last time we played them,” said Rich head coach Lex Cornia. “I was proud of our guys to come out and play the way they did — they executed the game plan really well.”
Against 1A powerhouse Wendover Saturday, however, the Rebels played well, but faltered down the stretch, falling 72-54. The win gave the Wildcats the season sweep, though Cornia said he wouldn’t be surprised if the two teams squared off again.
“To win a state title, I think you’re going to have to go through Wendover,” he said. “They’re probably a Top 2 team in the state at this point. They’ve got a lot of weapons, and I think we showed that when you take away their top two players, they have other guys that can step up — they play with a lot of depth and experience, and are a very polished team.”
The Rebels were scheduled to be on the road at Telos Thursday, but that game was canceled due to COVID-related issues. Rich will instead have back-to-back games this weekend against Region 22 rival Manila, Friday at home, and Saturday on the road.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever done that in my career — played the same team back-to-back,” Cornia said. “It’s another great rivalry, similar to Tabiona — Rich has been playing Manila for 60 or 70 years. They’ve been in that Top 4 all season long, and they’re playing really good basketball right now. It’s a great way to head into the postseason, with two games against Manila. Both gyms will be packed, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Mount Vernon 58
The first time these two teams met, the Patriots’ freshman phenom Matt Lambson torched Rich for 48 points, the most a single player has scored against the Rebels all season.
Cornia’s team was determined not to let that happen again. Led by 39 points from senior John Scott, Rich held Lambson in check to the tune of 11 points, earning the season split with a 68-58 win.
“I thought John Scott played very well for us at both ends of the floor,” Cornea said. “But the story of that game was defense — we asked Jaidyn Groll and Hayden Meek to cover a group of young guards that are very highly skilled, and they got it done for us. I think Lambson had 11 points — we forced them to go somewhere else. That game was told on the defensive end.”
With the game knotted at 18-18 after the first quarter, the Rebels created a little space in the second, taking a 40-34 halftime lead.
The Patriots (13-5, 5-2 in Region 22) took advantage of a slow start to the third quarter by Rich, battling back to take a 49-46 lead heading into the final frame. The Rebels were able to right the ship in the game’s final eight minutes, however, exploding for 22 points, en route to the 10-point win.
“With Konner Greer out, the weight really fell on our guard play to make something happen,” Cornia said. “They knew it, and they stepped up and responded. To hold a kid [Matt Lambson] that’s capable of scoring 48 points on a night, to 11 points, and keep him frustrated — it just showed a lot of toughness and grit that we didn’t show the last time we played them.”
Logan Muirbrook finished the game with a double-double, netting 10 points, and pulling down 11 rebounds; he and Scott were the only two Rebels who finished in double figures
“Our post play with Logan [Muirbrook] and the two Rileys [Taylor and Carrillo] has probably been our most consistent offensive weapon all season,” Cornia said. “They used their size effectively, and that’s something that’s going to carry us through to the end.”
Riley Taylor added nine points, to go along with six rebounds; Truman Huefner chipped in eight points, and led the team in steals, with five.
“We knew that if we stuck to our game plan, they weren’t going to beat us with twos — they were going to have to get those guards going,” Cornia said. “We took that away from them. Offensively, John [Scott] put a huge weight on his shoulders — with Konner [Greer] being out that he had to be more aggressive. Both he and Truman [Huefner] were attacking, and looking to dish.”
Hoping to earn a season split with Wendover (12-5, 4-1 in Region 21) Saturday, the Rebels played strong in the first half, but lost steam in the second, giving the Wildcats the season sweep with a 72-54 win.
“Wendover is an excellent team — there’s a reason they’ve been in the Top 3 all season,” said Rich head coach Lex Cornia. “I thought we played well against them, we just hit a wall — both mentally and physically — with about 10 minutes to go in the game. Playing for 22 minutes isn’t the same as playing for 32 minutes, and Wendover is a good enough team to take advantage when that happens.”
The two teams were even 31-31 at the break, though Wendover was able to pull away in the third, outscoring the Rebels 22-13 to take a 53-44 lead into the final frame. The Wildcats kept their foot on the gas over the final eight minutes, and returned home with the win.
“Wendover has probably the two best guards in the state — they just came off a win against Bryce Valley, who was the No. 1 team in the state,” Cornia explained. “They came into our gym with a lot of confidence. I thought we did a nice job of limiting their two biggest weapons, but they had other kids step up and make shots. [Keyshawn] Rodriguez averages eight points per game, but once we took away [Peter] Alvarez and [Jaime] Montalvo, he stepped up and scored 29 points. But even with him making shots, it was still a really tight game until the last 10 minutes. Our legs and our minds gave out, and off they went.”
Three Rebels finished the game in double figures, led by John Scott with 16 points. Logan Muirbrook followed with 13 points, while Truman Huefner sank a pair of 3-pointers, en route to 12 points.
Muirbrook led the team in rebounds and assists, with seven and three, respectively; as a team the Rebels shot 75% (9-for-12) from the charity stripe.