While it may have been the matchup between the first- and second-best teams in the Desert Valley League, the boys’ basketball game between Palm Desert and Indio on Tuesday failed to live up to the hype.
The Aztecs easily fended off the visiting Rajahs 65-34, a game in which they never trailed and shut down Indio’s, and possibly the league’s, top player — Isaiah Thomas — for virtually the entire first half.
In typical Palm Desert style, it was a team effort on offense and defense. Junior center Anthony Murdica was the scoring leader with 20 points, a career high.
“We came out with a lot of energy and just out-ran them,” Murdica said. “From the stats and their record, they are definitely the team to beat.”
Eric Oetting also got into double digits, scoring 15.
“I thought our effort on defense was outstanding, I thought Andrew Clark defended Isaiah (Thomas) — who’s a very good player — extremely well and just kind of took him out of his game for most of the (night),” Palm Desert head coach Don Brady said. “It was team basketball at its best. We held them to 34 and we out-rebounded them.”
On the other side of the ball, Indio couldn’t get out of its own way in the first half, turning the ball over three times in the first five minutes of the game and going into the locker room at halftime down 32-19.
Palm Desert was just the opposite.
The Aztecs’ crisp passing, exemplified by senior guard Daniel McCown, was too much for an Indio team that was also dominated on the boards, getting outrebounded 35-21.
“(Our team) wanted it real bad, and (we) came out with too much emotion I think, and they never could get settled down,” Indio head coach Ivery Thompson said. “Palm Desert played great, we played badly. We never could get into a rhythm. We made a little bit of a run after halftime but it wasn’t enough.”
Indio also was saddled by the fact that its top players — Thomas and Cesar Cid — were ineffective for most of the night.
While Thomas did lead the team in scoring with 15 points, he only had three in the first half and was just 5 for 17 from the floor. Cid had five points and none in the second half.
“Our better players couldn’t get it going tonight. Cesar Cid and Isaiah Thomas had a rough time, and it was just one of those nights,” Thompson said. “(We’ve) been winning, (we) came in on a five-game win streak and, I think, just a lot of emotions.
“We just didn’t have it tonight — some nights you just don’t have it.”
With the rest of the DVL in something of a state of flux — with two new coaches around the league and teams beating up on each other — the Aztecs and Rajahs still may be the top two teams in the league. But it appears now that there might be a big gap between first and second place.
Palm Desert (9-5, 3-0 DVL) hosts Coachella Valley Thursday at 6:30 p.m., while Indio (11-5, 1-1) travels to Palm Springs on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for its next game.