With victories against Bravo Medical Magnet and Salesian in the Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary tournament, the Roosevelt High School boys’ basketball team improved to 6-5.
The Rough Riders went 3-2 in the five-game tourney and now prepares to play in the Huntington Park Tournament. Play begins Jan. 3 with Roosevelt taking on Verdugo Hills at 3:30 p.m. in a first-round game.
“We’re playing much better than we did at the start of the season, especially the last couple of games,” Roosevelt Coach Gabriel Trejo said. “Hopefully, we will reach our full potential by the time league play starts.”
Senior point guard Alan Ramirez is a three-year starter and the Rough Riders’ only returning starter from last season’s 8-17 team. It comes as no surprise that he has also been their most consistent player.
Though Ramirez is the only returning starter, Roosevelt does have eight players back from last season, including five who saw substantial minutes. Senior guard Angel Vargas and senior center Steve Barrios are the two of the returnees who are playing key roles this season.
“Vargas is the best shooter on the team and Barrios is starting to understand his role offensively and doing a better job scoring,” Trejo said. “He’s doing more than just playing good defense.”
Trjeo is hoping that guard Rigoberto Sedano, the only junior who starts, will continue to improve.
“He’s had a couple of games in which he’s really played well,” Trejo said. “He’ll be a big help to us if we can get him going.”
The other forward spot still isn’t settled and the Rough Riders have started either Benito Parada or Roberto Zambrano.
“Just depends on who’s playing better,” Trejo said. Trejo thinks the Rough Riders can be competitive in what he expects to be a very balanced Eastern League.
“The league could be pretty open,” he said. “Jordan has been the dominant team, but they have a new coach. Bell is tough, South Gate is doing real well, Huntington Park is always tough, Garfield is Garfield and is going to be tough again, and, you never know what to expect from either team in that game.”
In the Cantwell tournament, Roosevelt scored a tough 32-30 victory over Boyle Heights rival Salesian last Friday at Salesian.
The Rough Riders were granted a request by tournament officials to replace Salesian with Huntington Park, the team they were slated to play in that round.
“We didn’t want to play a team from our league in the tournament,” Trejo explained. Salesian gave Roosevelt all it could handle. The Mustangs, who start two sophomores and two juniors, led for most of the game, including an eight-point advantage at halftime.
But the Rough Riders got a pair of three-point baskets by Ramirez to go ahead late in the game, some key rebounds from Barrios and a pair of clutch free throws by Ramirez to score the win.
Trejo wasn’t sure why his team struggled for most of the game.
“I think it was a combination of things,” he said. “Playing on their court was one and, for some reason, some of our players weren’t really into the game. But we needed to play better defense in the second half and we were fortunate that Ramirez hit those three-pointers.”
Salesian (4-7) got a game-high 15 points from sophomore guard Christian Robles. Coach David Martinez feels his young team is on the right track.
“We’re learning how to stay close in the games, now we need to learn how to execute to close them out,” he said.