Rajahs dig too big of a hole in loss

Rajahs dig too big of a hole in loss

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Rajahs dig too big of a hole in loss

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INDIO

The Indio High School girls’ basketball team got into too deep a hole Saturday night in the first round of the CIF Division II-A playoffs and despite a valiant second-half effort, the Rajahs fell short to Redlands East Valley 52-41.

Indio finished the season at 18-8 overall, but grabbed another share of the Desert Valley League title. It was the fifth straight time the Rajahs won or shared the championship.

This year, Indio accomplished that feat with a majority of underclassmen and despite an early exit from the playoffs, the Rajahs have plenty to look forward to.

“I knew we could win league because I believed in our young team,” said senior Sarai Reyes, who scored seven points and played hard on defense. “It was just the momentum of this game that I wanted to come out and play hard, but we just missed too many shots. They (Redlands) were disciplined and have some shooters. We tried hard to come back but we couldn’t.”

Indio fell behind 9-0 to start and trailed at the half, 28-14. The Wildcats held the Rajahs to single digits, but Indio just couldn’t buy a basket, missed too many early lay ups and had too many turnovers.

Redlands East Valley, which finished fourth in the Citrus Belt League (16-11 overall, 4-6 league) began to shoot from the outside and got hot behind Bree Bishop (game high 22 points with four 3-pointers), Natalia Ruhl and Maddy Grey.

“It’s been a challenge because we have a target on our back,” said Amina Johnson, one of three seniors with Reyes and Lizeth Villareal. “We come to play, but today just wasn’t our day. We tried to get a quick bucket, we were missing and then we were over-passing. We did have the opportunity to try to come back, but we just fell short.”

In the third quarter, Indio got a spark and was able to stay with the Wildcats, but never caught a break.

Sophomore Jazmyne Santiel was solid with a team-high 15 points and five steals and junior Kelcey Beckham raced hard to get back on defense, but it was the early mistakes and turnovers that cost the Rajahs in the end.

Indio outscored Redlands East Valley in the final quarter, 16-11, but couldn’t get it closer than nine points.

Santiel kicked off the final quarter with a 3, but Bishop followed with one of her own, her fourth overall. Indio then reeled off unanswered points on baskets from sophomore Dneesya Baxter, Beckham and Santiel, but 43-34 was the closet margin.

Indio coach Martin White said it all came down to defensive execution and missing too many layups.

“We just didn’t put the ball in the basket,” he said. “We knew they would shoot and we didn’t executive our defensive game plan. The biggest thing is that we turned the ball over. You can’t play out of desperation. At the end, that grit was our desperation.”

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