The Roosevelt Rough Riders defeated the South East Jaguars 51-43 Saturday, giving the Boyle Heights school its first ever boys’ basketball city championship.

The Riders struggled early and went into halftime down 10. They managed to turn it around in the third quarter taking a one point lead, outscoring South East 17-8.

The game was close up until three minutes left in the game, when the Riders pulled away with the help of José Arellano, Cesar Romo and Jonathan Gómez – who was definitely the top player of the game.

The Riders are now the number two seed in the CIF Southern Regional Division 5 championship and move on to the regional state playoffs. Their next game will be Tuesday March 3; Roosevelt will face Cathedral City at 7 pm at home. (See here for state championship brackets.)

The Division II city championship caps what had been called a late Cinderella run for Roosevelt’s boys basketball team. After a sluggish season, the team managed to turn it around and heated up during the playoffs.

The Riders got to Saturday’s championship game after exciting 57-51 win against the number two ranked team in the playoffs, Polytechnic HS. Along the way, the Riders had pulled upsets again number seven Kennedy and number three Hamilton. 

At 7-5 the Riders managed to finish fourth in the league and had an overall 16-10 record for the season, earning them the eleventh spot in the 2020 Los Angeles City Section playoffs. This season has been filled with many accomplishments for the Riders, as they were also able to beat long-time rival, Garfield, for the first time in 3 years. 

“This is a very special team, we have a great group of guys,” said Riders head coach Mario Pérez.

José Arellano. Photo by Bob Bernal Jr.

The Riders were not only able to win their first championship in school history, they did so in Pérez’s last year as head coach. Pérez has been the coach of the Roosevelt Basketball Program for the past eight years and also serves as the P.E. teacher for Math Science Technology Academy at (MTSMA) at Roosevelt High School. 

Jonathan Gómez. Photo by Bob Bernal Jr.

Led by senior José Arellano and sophomore Jonathan Gómez, the Riders faced a familiar foe for the Division II Championship. The Jaguars and Riders faced off twice this year, each splitting the series 1-1. 

Arellano has been outstanding for the Riders averaging 17 points, five assists, and five rebounds per game. “All season it’s been about improving, getting better as a team, we take it one game at a time,” he explained before Saturday’s game. 

Gómez has had his own helping hand during the season averaging 12 points and three assists per game. Other notable players for the Riders have been seniors César Romo and Julio García. 

“We are doing it for the barrio”, said senior Julio García.

More than the school, the players had said they were trying to do it for the community. They were trying to give Boyle Heights a reason to celebrate. 

This story was updated on Feb. 29 to reflect team’s championship win, add details from game.

This story was updated on March 2 with details about next game and to clarify that this is the school’s first boys’ basketball championship.

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Ahiti Juárez

Ahiti Juárez is a senior at the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School. He enjoys playing golf and volleyball on his spare time. He hopes to major in Business Marketing...

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