High school basketball: Aztecs eye first place in DVL

High school basketball: Aztecs eye first place in DVL

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High school basketball: Aztecs eye first place in DVL

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Tired of being able to predict the top two boys’ basketball teams in the Desert Valley League, in order, year after year? Then this should be the year for you.

With coaching changes at Palm Springs and Cathedral City high schools, both of those squads will be learning new systems and be hard pressed to maintain the same level of play from last season, where they finished first and third, respectively.

Palm Springs is the five-time defending league champion, but is off to a 2-8 start this year, and has played at least two fewer games than most of its counterparts in the DVL.

Cathedral City’s coaching position has been a revolving door since Rob Hanmer left after the 2008-09 season, and returned for one season last year. None of Hanmer’s replacements between 2009 and 2012 were able to get the Lions into the postseason.

With those two teams in transition, it looks to be Palm Desert’s chance to escape their recent slot as league bridesmaid.

The Aztecs have finished second in the DVL for five consecutive years. While they did go deeper into the playoffs than Palm Springs one of those years, they haven’t been able to overtake the Indians during the regular season in a long time.

“Obviously, that would be our goal. We’ve played in the highest division of any of the DVL teams in the MaxPreps (Holiday tournament), and we did that purposely,” Palm Desert’s longtime head coach Don Brady said. “So, we’re playing really good teams and we’re going to be ready to play. It’s just are we hitting on all cylinders at the right time?”

The right time had better be this week for the Aztecs because Tuesday will be the date of one of their toughest league games of the year when they host Indio.

The Rajahs have been on the rise ever since head coach Ivery Thompson took over in 2010. In the season prior to his arrival Indio won just four games, but since he’s been there they haven’t missed the playoffs.

“I think the league is probably more evenly matched this year than it’s been in the time I’ve been here,” Thompson said. “Palm Desert is probably still the favorite — that program has been strong and together for a long time.”

The pair of players that all the coaches around the league are talking about hail from Indio: senior guards Isaiah Thomas and Cesar Cid.

“Isaiah Thomas over at Indio seems to be having a great year,” said Xavier Prep head coach Mark Granger.

Granger himself has a squad that might be considered something of an X-factor. The Saints have been good for an upset or two the past couple of years and seem to be improving but always face the inevitable challenge of having an enrollment of approximately 1,000 students less than any other school in the rest of the league.

Thompson thinks for the first time since he’s been in the league, he has the best players in the DVL.

Thomas and Cid “both do so much for us; Isaiah (Thomas) at 6-3 is probably the most athletic player in our league right now,” Thompson said. “(Cid) is probably one of the smartest. Two of the five best players in the league are on our team this year, for the first time.”

Two of those other players are Aztecs: senior guards, David McCown and Andrew Clark, while the other is La Quinta’s senior forward Jojo Wiggins.

After Palm Desert and Indio, it should be a four-way battle for the final two playoff spots.

De Anza League look

In the DeAnza League, three desert schools — Shadow Hills, Desert Hot Springs and Desert Mirage — will be looking to dethrone defending champion Twentynine Palms.

Shadow Hills hopes to return to the postseason after losing in the first round of the playoffs last year.

“Unless someone can knock off Twentynine Palms, they’re the preseason favorites and Big Bear will be just as tough as usual,” said Shadow Hills head coach Aaron Wiltrout.

Desert Hot Springs will be looking to make it into the playoffs for the first time since 2011, while Desert Mirage will try to escape the league cellar for the first time in school history.

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