But SoCal is ranked fourth by MaxPreps and boasts a roster of players headed to Oregon, Michigan State, USC, Stanford, San Francisco and Mississippi. The Rams are tall, quick, athletic and are supposed to win everywhere they go.
“The days of our guys being awestruck, we’re well past that,” Brook Cupps said. “We’re ready to go.”
And go they did behind Rolf, who stood out on a court full of alpha dogs.
“He’s a dog,” Gabe Cupps said. “I’m always going to try to get Rich the ball anytime he’s playing. I know how hard he works, and I know they’ve got a good chance of falling. And tonight they just happened to all fall.”
Rolf hit two 3-pointers for a quick 6-0 lead and the Elks were in the game from the start. While SoCal got loose for a few of the kind of dunks so many come to see at Flyin’, Rolf kept hitting and the big crowd kept getting louder.
“My teammates just encourage me to let the ball fly, and I was hitting,” Rolf said. “It was a great feeling to come out fight ready. We knew it was going to be a challenge. We threw the first punch and we just let it carry us through the game.”
Between Cupps, House and Rolf, it’s a good bet the Elks will have at least one hot shooter. It was Rolf’s turn to make 11 of 15 shots, including 7 of 10 threes, because Cupps and House shot a combined 7 of 26 to score 12 and 10 points, respectively.
“What allows us to stay competitive is that all three of those guys can get 25 or 30, and one of them’s usually going to make some shots,” Brook Cupps said. “Tonight it was find Rich. Don’t take bad ones, find Rich, be patient.”
The Elks, however, were far from a one-man team. Cupps managed the game well and had four assists. Quinn Hafner made 3 of 4 3-pointers off the bench and Emmanuel Deng and Ryan Keifer led a defensive effort that took five charges. The entire team made numerous winning plays of keeping balls alive, securing loose balls, guarding the ball well, rebounding, you name it.
“That’s part of who we are,” Brook Cupps said. “We can’t win games not doing that. We’re not talented enough to not do that, and that’s how you’re supposed to play the game anyway.”
The game was tight until Rolf, Cupps and House made consecutive threes and Keifer got loose inside for a layup to build a 54-46 lead with 4:23 left. Coming out of a timeout with a little over two minutes left and up 57-49, it was time to go to Rolf again.
But not for a 3-pointer. Coach Cupps knew SoCal would close out hard on Rolf, so he called for a backdoor play. Gabe Cupps delivered a perfect pass and Rolf dunked on two defenders.
“I loved the mindset that he went to try to dunk it,” Brook Cupps said. “I loved it.”
And so did the crowd.