(Los Angeles Southwest College)— The Roosevelt Rough Riders, proudly representing Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles) and the Eastern League, came into the Finals venue, Los Angeles Southwest Community College, with their game-day faces on the exact same way just as they had done on their incredible, “gigantic underdog” playoff run to the biggest day of their season, the memorable Leap Year day of 2/29/2020. Coaches and players entered the gymnasium all locked-in with their eyes on the same, and highly coveted, prize—a Championship trophy for their team, school, classmates, families, supportive community, and its very pro-active Alumni Association.
With that thought in mind, the stage was set for the early 11:00 AM Saturday morning “tip-off” vs. their Eastern League member school, the South East Jaguars, the #4 tournament seed. The most important accomplishment for the “Rocky” and/or “Cinderella” team of this era, was that the Riders, as the #11 seed, had to defeat a higher-seed during all four of their games. It started with their defeat in the opening round of John F. Kennedy, then #3 seed, Hamilton, then #2 seed, Poly, and finally, the #4 seed, South East in the Title game.
The L. A. City Section’s record books may have to be re-written because of the astounding and amazing feat that the Riders accomplished in this 2019-2020 season. With this victory, the Rough Riders reached the “Mt. Everest” of the CIF/L.A. City Section Boys Varsity Basketball programs and have earned their place in the annals of L.A. Unified School District’s sports.
(1st Qtr)—The Riders got off to a slow start even though the hit the first shot of the game. They would trail (8-6) at the 2 minute mark. After several unexpected “turn overs” broke their rhythm, the fierce defense displayed by forward, #22/Vince Burgueño, with his rebounding and steals, kept them in the game. Not helping matters any was the fact that shooting guard, #3 Jhonny Gomez, picked up his second foul of the period with 5:15 to go and Coach Mario Perez had to sit him down. The low scoring period ended at (10-8), in favor of South East.
(2nd Qtr)—With the scoreboard showing South East with the lead at (14-9), Team Captain, José Arellano drove the baseline for a lay-up. It was now (14-11). Then on their next possession, All-League Sophomore Guard, #1/Jonathan “Jhonny” Gomez hit a huge 3-pointer and was fouled on his attempt. He made the free throw to complete the rare 4 point play, that came with 4:45 left in the period, making the score, (16-15), South East. The Jaguars then hit a 3-point jumper making it (19-13). After a Jaguar basket, Roberto Peña answered to close the score to (21-17). Then the Jags hit another 3 pointer to make it (24-17). Another basket made it (26-17), South East. Arellano drew a shooting foul with 1:56 left and made one, (26-18). Flores from South East gave the Jags a (29-18) lead after his trifecta. Arellano drew a common foul and went to the free line strip to shoot a “one & one.” The first was good but the second, although made, was not counted because of a lane violation by the Riders. That would end the scoring for the first half as time ran out on South East’s last shot at their basket.
HALFTIME SCORE: South East 29 Roosevelt 19
(3rd Qtr)—After the Riders opened the period with a quick Cesar Romo lay-in, the score moved up to (29-21), South East. Jose Arellano then came back with a straightway 2 pointer, making it (31-23), South East. Then Arellano hit a nice soft “floater” in the lane, (31-25). After another quick exchange of baskets, they called a time-out with the score now reading (35-27) due to a Cesar Romo low post lay-up. Unwanted “turn overs” were still a major concern for Riders’ Head Coach, Mario Perez. #3/Jhonny Gomez was not yet in his 3 point perimeter shooting rhythm, but was fouled on a drive to the hoop with 5:42 left. He made both moving the score to (35-28). A blocked shot by Arellano gave the Riders their next possession. He then was fouled on a drive and scored it. He made the traditional 3-point play closing the gap to just 4 at (35-31). Another South East turnover gave the boisterous Rider fans a big shot of confidence. Fans were glad to see that Arellano was quietly finding his game. Then with :40 seconds, left Gomez buried a badly needed 3 pointer, now it was (35-34), Jaguars. To close out the period, Arellano hit another floater from 10′ out, giving the Riders a (36-35) lead while giving their fans a chance to get even louder as they re-took the lead since their game opening basket. However, the intermittent turnovers were not helping the Riders. Luckily, an alternating possession favored Roosevelt on a jump ball with 1:47 left in the stanza. The Riders outscored the Jaguars in the period by a (17-6) margin. Mr. Momentum had now entered the game and it was evident that he and the very large Roosevelt fanbase in attendance were standing together with the Rough Riders.
(4th Qtr)—To start the period, Cesar Romo then came through with a short two 2′ bank shot, moving the score to (38-35), advantage Roosevelt. A Jaguar free throw made it a 2 point game, (38-36). Romo grabbed a teammate’s air ball shot missed the 2′ bank shot underneath. A missed opportunity. Then, after a rebound, Arellano missed an easy 5′ bank shot with 5:55 left. But, the defense was holding tight. After a time-out, South East tied it at (38-38) with 2 free throws. For about 90 seconds, the play was a bit choppy for both squads, but Burgueño was boarding and assisting, as evidenced by his great pass to Romo underneath who then hit a turn-around spinner in key for a (40-38) lead at the 3:20 mark. The Riders called a time-out with 3:01 left.
When play resumed, Arellano came up with a nice “shake ‘n bake” move and drew a shooting foul, but in a rare moment, missed both. With 2:15 left a foul was called on South East and possession given to the Riders. Next, sharpshooting 2-guard, Gomez, in perhaps what could be reviewed as the play of the game, was fouled on a 3-point shot attempt and made 2 out-of-three for a 4 point Rider lead at (42-38) with only 1:51 left in the game. The Jaguars could not score on their possession. Then, with 1:43 on the clock, Gomez drew a shooting foul on a drive, and made both for a (44-38) lead. South East answered with a corner 3-pointer for a (44-41) score with 1:04 left. Time out immediately was called by the Jaguars with Riders ball on the resumption of play. With Coach Perez’s instructions on using the shot clock and protecting the ball, the talented Rough Rider guards did just that. Arellano, while dribbling, was fouled and went to the line for a 1-and-1. He made both for a (46-41) lead with (:47) seconds left. The Jaguars lost the ball on a rebound and it was then awarded to Roosevelt in their back court with just (:28) seconds to go. On the next play, Arellano was fouled away from the ball for another 1-and-1. with (:20.9) secs. left. He made both for a (48-43) lead. South East then called its last time-out with (:14) secs. remaining. On the Riders next possession, and with only (:11.2) secs remaining, #4/Julio Garcia was fouled in the backcourt for a double-bonus free throw attempt and made both, moving the score to (50-43). Finally, with (:03) seconds left, Arellano was fouled and made the first shot, then intentionally missed the second, but the referees called a free throw violation, giving the ball to South East with just (03.2) seconds left to play, South East could only in-bound the ball for a last 40′ desperation shot as the clock expired ending the game.
FINAL SCORE: Roosevelt 51 South East 43