For the first time since 2006, the Palm Desert boys’ basketball team earned at least a share of the Desert Valley League championship Thursday when they held off a strong effort by Indio to win on the road 51-45.
Second-place Indio needed to knock off first-place Palm Desert to have any real chance at the DVL title, but with the loss fell into third place behind La Quinta and have only a mathematical chance at a piece of the league crown.
It’s not like the Rajahs didn’t have a chance, Thursday, either, despite losing to Palm Desert 65-34 the first time they played this year.
The Rajahs tied the game 7-7 with less than a minute left in the first quarter, then tied it again at 15-15 with 5 minutes left in the second quarter. They even took the lead once, 22-21, with 5:15 left in the third period.
But Palm Desert grabbed the lead back immediately and never relinquished it.
“We had a game plan. This was a big game for us, we clinched at least a share of the league,” said Aztecs’ senior guard Daniel McCown. “So we got the job done, won the game on defense, so it was a solid win.”
While it may be true that it was a defensive struggle with an abundance of turnovers on both sides, McCown certainly provided enough offense to keep the Aztecs on top — leading all scorers with 26 points. None of his points came in the conventional way — he had four 3-pointers and made 14 of 18 from the free throw line.
“I work on (free-throw shooting) a lot. I missed a couple more than I’d like to. I missed four, which is a little upsetting, but hey, I did what it took to win the game, so I’m OK with it,” McCown, the team captain, said.
Much of the defensive credit can be given to fellow senior guard Eric Oetting, who spent the night guarding Indio’s second-leading scorer, Cesar Cid, who averages 16 points a game. Cid went just 1 for 9 from the floor, his only bucket coming in the fourth quarter.
“I think we did a really great job on defense, we just didn’t shoot the ball well at all,” Indio head coach Ivery Thompson said. “We couldn’t get the ball to fall. Cesar Cid couldn’t get it going, and that’s just really it. Both teams played extremely hard. It was a well-fought game and you have to take your hat off to them.”
Oetting said it was all about tactics.
“I guarded him last time and he only scored 5, so I just stuck to the same game plan, just forced him left, to his off hand, and just stayed in front,” Oetting said.
Palm Desert (16-5, 9-0, DVL) is at Coachella Valley on Tuesday, while Indio (16-7, 5-3) hosts Palm Springs on Tuesday.