The Rio Mesa High girls’ basketball team started the season with a 58-5 victory.
In the middle of the year, the girls launched a 15-game winning streak and later earned a share of the Pacific View League championship with Camarillo.
Now the Spartans need to win five straight playoff games to claim a CIF-Southern Section Division 3AAA title.
Rio Mesa’s locked, loaded and ready for the postseason.
“Our goal was to win league. We did that,” said senior center Riley Abraham.
“Now we want to go far and get that CIF championship.”
Ranked No. 4 in the division, Rio Mesa excels with a selfless brand of basketball. RMHS, which won a league title in 2010, was 21-4 overall entering Thursday’s home game against Ventura.
Abraham patrols the middle while a throng of strong guards penetrate and dish.
It’s not all about the lady in the lane. This team is unselfish, Abraham said.
“The unselfish part is really good,” she said. “We work well with each other. There’s no drama and we’re all really competitive.”
Fifth-year head coach Tim Murray agreed with his star center.
“They get along as well as any team I’ve had,” he said. “We’re in this whole thing together. We all have the same goals, and we work together to achieve them.”
Abraham’s nose for the ball is akin to TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager’s taste for tacky suits.
The Spartan is one of the best rebounders in the U.S., ranking 22nd nationally, according to MaxPreps.com. She plucked 17.2 boards per game at press time.
Abraham, who expects to play Division II college hoops, also leads the Spartans with 14 points a night. She adds 2.6 blocks and 2.5 steals per outing.
“She takes a little step up each week,” Murray said of Abraham.
The senior said every Spartan has improved.
“All the girls are stepping up,” Abraham said. “They’re all doing their part to help us out a lot.”
Ashley Ontiveros is a big reason for Rio Mesa’s resurgence.
The junior combo guard is a solid outside shooter and a menacing wing defender.
“Defensively, she’s our best on-ball defender,” Murray said of Ontiveros. “I’d say she’s one of the top (defenders) in the county. That gets overlooked.
“She never takes a defensive possession off.”
As ferocious as she is on the hardwood, Ontiveros is eloquent and thoughtful off the court. Instead of rattling off clichés, she answers questions with candid insight.
Before her transfer from Newbury Park, Ontiveros watched the Spartans play summer ball with her father. The guard admitted that she didn’t think Rio Mesa would be so successful.
Once she started working with the girls every day, she noticed something else.
“I was very impressed that they give it their all,” Ontiveros said.
Of the 21 victories to pick from, her favorite game this season was one she missed with an injured ankle: a 55-41 win at Santa Barbara on Jan. 28.
“ We had incredible teamwork,” Ontiveros said.
Entering Thursday, Ontiveros averaged 13.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.
Ashley Rodriguez is a force at combo guard.
The junior uses her quick first step to break down defenses.
Rodriguez led the team in assists (49) at press time, and averaged 9.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game.
“We feel she can get by a defender whenever she wants,” Murray said of Rodriguez. “She gets us going.”
Nicole Arceo is a smooth wing player with a nice midrange jumper. The junior can drain running floaters. She’s also fundamentally sound defensively on the ball and helping, the coach said.
Amanda Barroso, a sophomore shooting guard, handles the ball well while penetrating into the paint.
“I enjoy the team,” said Barroso, who swims the 50-yard butterfly and 200 freestyle in the spring. “We share the ball and we trust each other.”
Abraham’s sister, Brenna, one of the toughest Spartan forwards, provides instant energy off the bench.
“She’s had some black eyes,” Murray said of Brenna Abraham. “ She won’t back down from anyone.”
Rodriguez’s sister, freshman small forward Brittany Rodriguez, is a solid passer with solid court vision.
Dulce Vera is a scrappy senior guard who shoots and passes well. Marissa Hurtado is a fast, athletic junior forward.
Kevin Hardy, Joe Mollica and Randi Hicks are assistant coaches.
“We’ve come a long way and gotten better. And we’ve had a lot of success,” Murray said. “A CIF (title), it’s not out of our reach.”