The second-seeded Desert Chapel boys’ basketball team never trailed Tuesday in their quarterfinal game against 10th-seeded Besant Hill (Ojai), eventually coming away with a commanding 65-45 victory.
Roman Pellum led the way for the Eagles with 25 points and spent most of his night guarding 6-foot-8 center Felix White, who was just two for eight from the floor.
“We knew coming into this game that we had to box (White) out,” said Pellum, a senior center. “We had watched film on him, and he’s basically a rebounder, so we were basically double-teaming him all night trying to shut him down.”
Which Pellum, along with forwards Kaleb Whan and Evan Armendariz, essentially did.
“Just stay in front of him, don’t let him get the ball at all, just be real physical, and he couldn’t handle it,” Pellum said. “He was the biggest guy we’ve played all year.”
Point guard Jaleel Miles came on strong for the Eagles in the second half and finished with 13 points. Whan had 12, going a perfect three for three from the floor and two for two from the line in the first half.
It looked as though Desert Chapel would run into early foul trouble, with Armendariz drawing three fouls in the first quarter, but the Eagles managed to get their physicality under control and, in fact, it was Besant Hill that lost a player — Max Metlen — to fouls in the fourth quarter.
“Once we started to get physical — too physical in the beginning — and then once I put Roman in the middle, that was it,” Desert Chapel head coach Alfonso Alvarez said. “I had told him, ‘Attack, attack, attack,’ and he attacked.”
The victory sets up the Eagles for a CIF Southern Section Division VI semifinal game against Joshua Springs at 7 p.m. Friday in Palm Springs. Joshua Springs is seeded third in the division after winning the Victory League, the same league Desert Chapel transferred from after last season. The Eagles moved into the much softer Majestic League, which they easily won.
Last year Desert Chapel’s playoff run ended in the semifinals when it could not maintain a 24-point halftime lead over Rio Hondo at home.
Alvarez made assurances that the same thing will not happen this year.
“Our intensity and physicality is going to overtake (Joshua Springs). If we play like (we did Tuesday), there’s no one (that can beat us),” he said. “It’s a clear trip to the CIF championship.”