Rancho Mirage’s 30-game winning streak to start last season and the CIF Southern Section semifinals berth it earned them bumped the Rattlers up a division for this postseason, meaning likely a much tougher first round playoff matchup, coach Rob Hanmer thought.
Yes, Rancho Mirage’s 91-56 drubbing of Grand Terrace on Wednesday night at home in Division 3 AA playoff action was technically closer than the team’s 77-32 defeat of Jurupa Valley a year ago, but it sure didn’t feel like it.
From the opening tip, which Charles Neal grabbed and quickly tossed to Zach Kroker for a dunk three seconds in, the Rattlers dominated, giving Hanmer the ability to play all 17 players, including putting his entire junior varsity starting five on the floor at one point in the second half.
“To get that game experience and know how much they need to work between now and next season is big,” Hanmer said. “Our JV team finished the season on a 17-game winning streak, and they were all out there and even looked good too. It’s nice to know that when Charles (Neal) leaves along with the other seniors, it’s not going to be the end of Rancho Mirage basketball.”
READ MORE: Full local postseason schedule
At the same time, Hanmer knows he may never coach another talent like Neal, who came out to warmups with “CIF” and his “4” jersey number shaved into the sides of his head just like a year ago, clearly in playoff mode. The senior went for 28 points, including six 3-pointers that boosted him past the 2,000-point mark that’s all the more impressive when you consider Rancho Mirage has only had a varsity program for three years.
“Charles was his normal, unbelievable self,” Hanmer said. “We finally relaxed and shot the ball pretty well, and when we do, the score tends to get big in a hurry.”
After jumping out to an 18-8 lead after the first quarter, the Rattlers pounced on the Titans with 26 points in the second quarter with buckets from five different players and threes from three separate guys. Grand Terrace, a much smaller team than the Rattlers, struggled battling in the paint for buckets, and when their desperate heaves at the backboard didn’t fall, they started chucking up shots from Steph Curry range, which only provided long rebounds for the Rattlers and quick buckets for Neal and his squad to pile it on.
With the easy victory, Rancho Mirage will hit the road to play Santa Fe in a gym Hanmer said he’s yet to visit during his coaching tenure. Even with a team as hot as Rancho Mirage, going on the road can pose some threats with having to hit the road five hours before tipoff.
But a year ago, with the exception of a couple quarters, the Rattlers hit obstacles in stride. This team looks poised to surpass the squad from a year ago.
“Last year, we had to go to Adelanto and Ocean View before the semifinals, and that’s where we played some of our best basketball,” Hanmer said.
RANCHO MIRAGE 91, GRAND TERRACE 56
Grand Terrace (56)
(FG FT-FTA TP) Devin Martin 2 0-0 4, Brandon Walker 7 2-4 20, Jevon Taylor Jr. 4 1-2 9, Elijah Smith 4 0-0 8, Bryan Bah 1 0-0 2, Judah Williams 3 0-0 6, Jerrell Calhoun 1 0-0 2.
Totals 23 5-8 56
Rancho Mirage (91)
(FG FT-FTA TP) Koby Alvarez 3 0-0 6, Zack Kroker 1 0-0 2, Bryan Talley 8 2-2 18, Matt Barajas-Tiedeman 5 0-0 11, Charles Neal 11 0-0 28, Marques Prior 4 0-0 11, Bryan Revis 3 0-0 6, Dallen Stevens 2 0-2 4, Rodrigo Jacquez 1 0-0 2, Westin Lynch 1 0-0 3.
Totals 39 2-2 91
Grand Terrace 8 14 22 12 — 56
Rancho Mirage 18 26 35 12 — 91
3-Point Goals – Grand Terrace (5): Brandon Walker 4, Team 1. Rancho Mirage (11): Matt Barajas-Tiedeman 1, Charles Neal 6, Marques Prior 3, Westin Lynch 1.