Unable to slam the door on a game-long lead, the Desert Christian Academy boys’ basketball team experienced a disappointing epilogue to a storied season on Wednesday night, falling at home 49-46 to Olympian High (Chula Vista) in the opening round of the CIF Division V State Championships.
Four days after capturing the CIF Southern Section Division 5A crown, the Conquerors appeared primed to extend their season after taking a 37-27 edge to the final quarter and then leading the visiting Eagles by ten points with 3:30 to play in the game.
Yet a 14-1 run by Olympian closed out the evening, along with DCA’s historic season which saw the Conquerors author the second CIF boys’ basketball title in the school’s 40-year history.
Coming down the stretch on Wednesday, Desert Christian (22-6) stayed true to its form and philosophy of rhythm-style basketball and opted not to attempt to salt away clock. Though promising looks ensued, the bounding ball simply stopped bouncing in the hosts’ favor.
“There were layups that we missed, free throws that we missed and open shots that we missed,” said DCA head coach Matt Garrison of the game’s waning minutes, adding the execution was not to be blamed for the loss. “Defensively, we didn’t want to lose on rebounds, but that’s exactly how we lost, which is frustrating. But at the end of the day, I really do feel like we did some good things offensively, and I don’t have regrets. The effort was there, the energy was there. The ball just doesn’t bounce your way sometimes.”
Olympian (29-3) entered the night coming off a loss in the San Diego Section Division IV championship game; prior to that defeat, the Eagles, akin to DCA’s run prior to Wednesday’s defeat, had won 15 consecutive games.
“That’s a good team that played within themselves,” Garrison added. “They don’t have height, so they found a way to win all year. They’re not necessarily the best team we played all season, they just gave us a tricky matchup.”
With DCA trailing for the first time in the game at 47-46 with eight seconds to play, Conquerors’ senior forward Ananias Bullock was unable to put the finishing touches on a spectacular, 24-point night, missing a pair of free throws. Bullock was terrific for DCA in the paint throughout the contest, scoring 14 of Desert Christian’s 25 first half points, and tallying 10 field goals on the eve.
“It’s for sure disappointing, but we reached our goal of winning CIF,” said DCA senior forward Ben Roethler, who led the hosts with 12 rebounds. “So we can’t really hang our heads because I know we played as hard as we could. We love each other, we’re a family, and our progression as a team this year was incredible. It was a heck of a ride.”
Despite the sullen ending, a sell-out crowd was fast to recognize that their team’s magical season placed a new championship banner in the DCA gym.
“Did we leave anything on the court? No. Are there any regrets? No,” concluded Garrison. “These guys did everything within their power to compete and never gave up.”