There were a couple of minor scares for the Palm Desert High School boys’ basketball team in its first-round playoff game against South Hills (West Covina), but for the most part it was business as usual for the Aztecs, who won 71-52.
The Huskies got out to a 5-0 lead with less than a minute off the clock when the clock broke. It took the Palm Desert table a good 10 minutes before they could get the shot clock working correctly and it seemed to rob any momentum away from heavy underdog, South Hills.
“We started the game a little slow, I don’t think our intensity was where it should have been, but we got ourselves together during the long delay, and it paid off,” said Aztec leading scorer Daniel McCown, who was good for 27 points, despite only hitting two from outside the arc.
Palm Desert was only outscored in one quarter — the third — when South Hills got to within 3 points of the Aztecs. But that was as close as they would come after their initial 5-0 run.
“We just came to play and my teammates got me shots where I could hit them — I always say it — and they went in for me today,” McCown said. “We’re a defense-first team, always. Our coaches say, if you hold a team to around 40 points, you’ll win 95 percent of your games, so that’s always the mentality we have going into every game.”
Also scoring in double digits for Palm Desert were Eric Oetting with 13 points and Anthony Murdica with 11.
“I thought we ran the floor well, we executed offensively and our defense was spectacular,” said Palm Desert head coach Don Brady. “McCown played great defense on a really good player, (Jacob Estrada), and Andrew Clark shut down (Darik Pradia), those were their two high scorers and again it’s just a matter of will for those guys.”
Despite being the leading scorer for the Huskies with 15 points, Estrada was just 5 for 15 from the floor and 3 for 12 from long distance. Pradia was held to just 4 points on the night.
Next up in the CIF Southern Section Div. IIIAA playoffs for the 13th seeded Aztecs will be No. 4 Corona del Mar on the road in Newport Beach on Friday. That matchup will have Palm Desert as underdogs to the winners of the Pacific Coast League.
“This team has a real strong belief system. It’s going to be a very hostile environment against a very tough Corona del Mar team, but anything’s possible, especially with this team,” Brady said.