The Spartans remained focused on the task at hand Friday night to beat Pacifica 68-49 at Rio Mesa High.
The victory kept Rio Mesa (18-7, 8-1) tied with Camarillo (18-7, 8-1) atop the Pacific View League standings, and sets up an all-or-nothing league title showdown between the teams on Wednesday night at Camarillo High in the final regular season game.
“It was definitely hard not to think about because Camarillo is our rival. But we knew in order for that game to have the meaning we want, we had to take care of business tonight,” Rio Mesa senior guard Joseph Soto said. “Now, I am looking forward to playing for the championship.”
Soto helped Rio Mesa set the tone against Pacifica early by dominating the first quarter. He used his quickness to the basket, flashy no-look passing and pull-up three-pointers to help the Spartans jump out to a 16-3 lead.
Pacifica (12-13, 5-4) made a brief run in the second quarter before Rio Mesa ended the first half with a flourish to stretch its lead to 18 points.
Sophomore guard Anthony Teart capped Rio Mesa’s 8-0 run with an aerial putback that ended with him violently crashing to the ground and slamming his head on the court.
Teart would be OK, but the sequence virtually knocked out Pacifica.
“I thought we did a good job of playing with a lot of energy and I thought we did a good job containing (israel) Ibarra early on,” Rio Mesa head coach Chris Ruffinelli said. “The kids did a good job using our strength, and our strength is quickness. We did a good job spreading the floor and attacking the gaps they were giving us offensively.”
Soto led Rio Mesa with 17 points, and the Spartans received strong play off the bench from Teart and fellow sophomore guard Reggie Dixon.
Teart scored eight of his 11 points in the first half while Dixon scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
“They made some plays in a couple of key spurts for us,” Ruffinelli said. “Our whole motto all year has been ‘united we win.’ No guy is any less important than any other guy on this team.”
Rio Mesa established a big enough lead to clear the bench and allow crowd favorite Anthony Montoya to score his first point of the season on a free throw in the fourth quarter.
Mike Walker led Pacifica with 18 points and Ibarra was limited to nine.
As soon as the final buzzer sounded, Rio Mesa’s focus quickly turned to Wednesday night and trying to avenge last month’s 78-66 loss to Camarillo.
“The first game didn’t come out the way we wanted it to and this one is for all the marbles,” Soto said. “Just thinking about it now I am getting chills. I am ready to go out there and make up for our loss.”