Winners of eight consecutive games heading into Saturday night’s championship final of the Palm Springs Winter Classic, the Palm Desert boys’ basketball squad looked like they were already on Christmas vacation.
Although the Aztecs would score off the opening tip on a thunderous put-back dunk from forward Zach Whittet, it would be another 21-minutes of game time before Palm Desert would net another field goal in their eventual 47-23 loss to Ralston Valley (Colo.).
“Gas is on empty. We couldn’t hit a shot right from the beginning and had no energy,” said Aztecs’ head coach Don Brady. “Four games in a row, and we played really hard for three straight games. I thought we played hard tonight, but we just didn’t get any shots to drop and some of that is our legs were shot. I felt bad for the kids because they didn’t have any energy.”
Brady’s feelings were mirrored by an offensive output that would see Palm Desert make just seven shots on the night, with four of those coming from Whittet, who led the Aztecs with 12 points. Palm Desert trailed 20-6 at the half.
Ralston advanced to the title game with a 59-47 overtime win over host Palm Springs on Friday night, while Palm Desert routed to the championship with a 43-41 victory over defending tournament champion, Calabasas.
In victory, the Mustangs received 10 points apiece from forwards Michael Dell and Spencer Svejcar.
“It’s tough, playing four games in four games,” added Brady. “And we played really high-quality opponents in Peninsula, Calabasas and Twentynine played us hard. They (Ralston) only played three, so that’s a little easier. We’re a better team than that and we’ll come back strong, but congratulations to Ralston Valley. They deserved it tonight.”
Palm Desert will now enjoy a three-day rest before heading into next week’s leviathan MaxPreps Holiday Classic. The Aztecs (8-2) begin tournament play vs. St. Mary’s (Phoenix) on Wednesday.
In the third-place game, which was a rematch of last year’s title game, defending champion Calabasas defeated Palm Springs 56-48.