The win was impressive for the young Murrieta Mesa Rams, a CIF 3AAA as their opponent was the Summit SkyHawks of Fontana, a CIF 2AA team.
The SkyHawks were 10-0 in their league (Sunkist) last season including Patriot, Jurupa Valley, Bloomington, Kaiser, & Norte Vista. They were 28-8 overall.
The Rams, coached by Russell Ham, finished the 2010-2011 campaign with a 6-20 record overall (0-10 in Southwestern league). The Rams were down 16-11 after the first quarter but rallied to tie it at halftime at 22-22. After three quarters, they were down by one 33-32.
The team did what was needed to outscore the SkyHawks 17-14 in the final and decisive quarter and win 49-47. Senior power forward Nate Wright led his Ram team with 16 points.
"It was a good win for our program," Ham said. "Coming off a 6–20 2010-11 year in our first Varsity season to competing against a team like Summit is big for us. It’s only one game, however, and it’s a long season. We don’t want to get too high. The guys, though, have really worked hard to play together as a team."
The Summit game was close the whole way. The Rams held the lead most of the game but by no more than five points. Nate Wright's 16 points and 10 rebounds lead the way.
Contributing to the win were Khalil Sharpe (10 points), Chase Chambers (9 points, 8 rebounds) and Sean Haggerty (9 points), who had a crucial steal with a lay-up and clutch three-pointer to put the Rams up by four late in the game.
Last season, Summit was highly ranked in the CIF section, losing 53-50 in the CIF Division 2 State Championship game to Archbishop Mitty on March 25.
The week previous, Summit had won the CIF D2 regional final against the state's top ranked team, Lincoln 74-69. In late February CIF Div 2AA playoffs, Summit made it to the semi-finals, losing to Mission Viejo.
Athletic director Bill Bree was excited about the win. He gave credit to head coach Russell Ham and the hard work from the boys on team. "Things happen [for new programs], just not overnight," Bree said. "It takes maturity."
It's only a matter of time before the Rams' program produces a winning season.
"Our kids have been competing for three years together now," Bree said.
Murrieta Mesa will continue pool play at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday against Calvary Murrieta. Also in the Bronco/Ram Tip-Off Tournament, the Vista Murrieta Broncos play tonight at 6:30 p.m. against San Jacinto.
*Updated at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 29 to include comments from Murrieta Mesa Head Coach Russell Ham and Athletic Director Bill Bree.