Taner Alvarez and the rest of the Desert Chapel boys’ basketball squad wanted to get rid of the sting they felt last year when they fell in the second round of the CIF playoffs.
Behind a balanced scoring effort in a physical game that featured several technical fouls and floor burns, the No. 11 ranked Eagles clawed their way to the CIF Division VI quarterfinals Friday with an 80-66 victory over local counterpart Marywood-Palm Valley.
“It feels great getting over that hump after falling 69-64 to Cal Lutheran in the second round of the playoffs last year,” said Alvarez, who led Desert Chapel with 22 points. “We knew it was going to be tough and physical because that’s how it was when we played football in the fall.”
On the basketball court, the Eagles jumped out to a 45-32 halftime lead and maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half as Desert Chapel countered every rally brought on from the Firebirds, who came into the contest as the No. 6 seed.
Down 65-44 in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Marywood-Palm Valley went on a 10-0 run behind the aggressive play of Tanner Joles to cut the deficit to 12 points, but the Eagles defense proved to be too tough to overcome.
“Our defense was ferocious and we were all over the court and that was the difference,” Desert Chapel head coach Alfonso Alvarez said. “We came out from the get-go being aggressive and we were able to get to them.”
Despite playing in catch-up mode the entire contest, Joles said he kept looking up at the scoreboard and didn’t want to go down without a fight.
“We kept battling until the last whistle because that’s how Marywood-Palm Valley plays basketball,” Joles said. “I wanted to do anything I could to take my team to the next game, but they were aggressive and played their hearts out.”
The Eagles, who led 20-15 at the end of the first quarter, rallied behind the inside presence of big man Roman Pellum, who scored all 17 of his points in the first half before fouling out in the third quarter.
Dempsey Williamson also had a big game for Desert Chapel, converting four 3-pointers to finish with 21 points.
“I was warming up earlier in the day and felt good about my 3-point shot so I knew I needed to shoot a little more today,” Williamson said. “The crowd was a huge factor and we knew we had to take advantage of playing at home.”
Shannon Estrin added 14 points for the Eagles (13-12).
Jason Hackett (16 points) and Struthers (eight points) rounded out the scoring for Marywood-Palm Valley, who finished 18-7.
Firebirds coach Ken Simonds was pleased with the way his team battled.
“Hustle and heart set us apart since day one and we went out swinging,” Simonds said. “Unfortunately our shots weren’t falling tonight and we can’t give up 80 points and expect to win a playoff game.”