The final 20 seconds of the first half may have seemed inconsequential Wednesday night inside the La Quinta High School gym, but encapsulated four possessions that played a role in ending the Blackhawks’ season.
La Quinta led by nine just before halftime and seemed to be in control in its first round California Interscholastic Federation playoff game. But Burbank High finished the half strong, scoring two relatively easy baskets and forced turnovers on the defensive end, leaving Blackhawks head coach Ty Thomas shaking his head in frustration entering the locker room during the intermission.
Burbank carried the momentum into the second half, burying a 3-point bucket on the opening possession to further close the gap, and the Bulldogs outscored La Quinta by nine in the third quarter of a 65-59 comeback victory over the Blackhawks.
“Obviously disappointed because I don’t think we played as well as we’ve been playing,” Thomas said. “Unfortunately for the seniors, it ends here.”
La Quinta (16-13) played from behind most of the fourth quarter, but still had a number of chances to win or send the game into overtime.
With a little less than two minutes to play and trailing by nine, La Quinta junior Christian Sanchez drilled a 3 that was followed by a layup by teammate Marcel Zepeda and another 3 by sophomore Pierce Sterling. La Quinta was within a point of Burbank with less than a minute to play.
The Bulldogs (20-8) answered with a basket on the other end, making it a 3-point game. Instead of shooting beyond the arc, Sterling took the ball into the lane and scored a bucket while he was fouled – but he missed the tying free throw and La Quinta was forced to foul.
With 24.9 seconds to play, La Quinta still was within three points but couldn’t muster a tying bucket and was again forced to foul. Burbank made 5-of-6 free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.
La Quinta was 6-of-13 from the free throw line in the game.
“We just didn’t execute well,” Thomas said. I think maybe the magnitude of the game had something to do with it because we were off.
“We played the first half jittery. We had the lead, but we were doing stuff we hadn’t been doing.”
Sterling finished with 24 points, five rebounds and three assists, and Zepeda chipped in 14 points, six rebounds and four assists.
The loss doesn’t dampen the season La Quinta had, Thomas said. The Blackhawks won the Desert Valley League after finishing tied for third a year ago, and though they lost twice to rival Palm Desert, they didn’t lose to anyone else in the league.
La Quinta also finished the season winning 11 of 13.
It’s a step in the right direction, Thomas said, and with most of his rotation returning next year, there’s hopes of another league title and perhaps more for the Blackhawks in the near future.
“I’m really happy with the progression, the way the program is going,” Thomas said. “The young kids are coming in doing what they need to do, so no disappointment there.
“The young kids will come back and we’ll get this thing ready to roll again.”
BURBANK 65, LA QUINTA 59
(FG FT-FTA TP) Woods 7 2-6 17, Khandaker 7 2-2 16, Chavez 4 3-6 14, Sweeten 2 2-2 6, Willis 2 0-0 4, Ahassian 1 0-0 3, Clark, 1 0-0 2, Kobaissi 1 0-0 3.
Totals 25 9-16 65.
La Quinta (59)
(FG FT-FTA TP) Sterling 10 3-5 24, Zepeda 6 0-0 14, Mooney 3 1-2 7, Sanchez 2 1-2 7, Shetrone 1 0-2 3, Holcomb 0 1-2 1, Drew 1 0-0 3.
Totals 23 6-13 59.
BU 12 14 25 13 65
LQ 15 16 16 12 59
3-Point Goals – Burbank: 6 (Chavez 3, Woods, Kobaissi, Ahassian). La Quinta: 7 (Zepeda 2, Sanchez 2, Drew, Shetrone, Sterling)