It was almost expected.
For the second year in a row, the La Quinta and Indio High girls’ basketball teams have split games in the Desert Valley League.
Last year, the two shared the league title and this year it looks as if it’s heading in the same direction.
“Here we go again,” said La Quinta coach Ty Thomas whose team won the first meeting against the host Rajahs, 44-35 but fell Thursday night at home, 45-36. “(Indio) played very aggressive. They had to — it was do or die. We just didn’t hit our shots.”
Indio needed the victory to get into position to share the title again and did so with a strong effort under the basket from Dneesya Baxter, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Rajahs (13-7 overall, 6-1 DVL). She had 11 of Indio’s 19 first-half points and stayed steady in the second half when sophomore Jazmyne Santiel and junior Kelcey Beckham ran the floor.
“I expected this to happen,” said Santiel, who finished with 11 points. “It was the same thing last year. We knew about the intensity of this game. We had to come out and play our hardest.
“We had to take out their shooters (Karen Orozco and Bri Ulloa) and penetrate with our defense.”
While it was a 6-6 defensive struggle after one quarter, Indio’s Baxter started to dominate the boards and got some solid passes underneath from Beckham (10 points, six steals, eight rebounds) along the way. Baxter dropped in nine points in the second quarter to spark Indio to a 19-14 halftime lead.
“If it wasn’t for (her teammates) passing into the post, I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Baxter said. “The biggest difference was controlling under the basket.”
However, the Blackhawks weren’t going to quit as Hillary Alvarez made two quick baskets to put La Quinta back in it before Orozco (15 points) and Santiel traded 3-pointers. La Quinta chipped way and tied it at 27-all to close out the third on Orozco’s layup at the buzzer.
La Quinta (13-8, 6-1 DVL) took a short-lived lead at 28-27, but Santiel nailed a 3-pointer. That was followed by a steal by Beckham and quick pass to Santiel who laid it in for a five-point surge and a 32-28 lead.
From there, it was sloppy and a free-throw fest, but both teams struggled all game from the foul line.
“We played hard,” Indio coach Martin White said. “We didn’t play well, but this was a grind-out team victory. They were intimidated a little, but we’ve been playing well and we came here expecting to win.”