Palm Springs’ boys’ basketball team took up in the first round of the CIF-SS playoffs right where it stopped in its final regular season game, crisply cruising to a 60-39 win over Riverside Hillcrest.
It was another coat-and-tie win for the Indians on their home floor. Palm Springs concluded its regular season with an 80-43 win over Cathedral City a week ago, and looked equally sharp in its 2016 playoff debut Wednesday night, smothering Hillcrest defensively, and outmuscling them on the offensive end.
The win puts the Indians into the second round of the playoffs, where they will face Cabrillo at home on Friday. Cabrillo eliminated Bellflower, 59-51, on Wednesday.
“It was clearly our defense that made the big difference, we held ’em under 40,” said Palm Springs’ coach Chris Howard. “We also ran the floor really well and were able to make some easy baskets.”
Palm Springs (18-7) jumped out to a 15-6 first quarter lead, connecting on six of its’ 12 attempts from the floor in the first quarter. The visitors made only two of their 12 shots from the field in the quarter, and also committed four turnovers.
Hillcrest (12-15) made a run at the Indians in the second quarter, reeling off 11 straight points after Palm Springs’ Kaelan Richter made a three-point basket to start the quarter, cutting the Indians lead to 18-17. But Palm Springs answered by going on a 11-3 spurt to close the half.
The burst was keyed by senior forward John Rich, who was held scoreless in the first quarter, but scored five points in the surge, helping lift the Indians to a 29-20 halftime lead.
Rich kept his motor running in the third, pushing Palm Springs’ advantage to 46-29 through three quarters. Rich scored 10 of the Indians’ 17 points in the quarter, including a three-point basket and a three-point play with 20 seconds left in the period to give the Indians their biggest lead of the game to that point.
The Indians made five of their nine field goal attempts in the period, including Rich’s 3-pointer and one another three from Richter, and did not commit a turnover. In the fourth quarter, the Indians stuck with the starters, and Hillcrest could get no closer than 13.
Rich scored four straight from the field as the clock ran under three minutes, giving the Indians a 60-39 lead with 1:44 to go, their biggest of the night.
“We say value the ball, and I thought we came out pretty loose with it,” Howard said. “We had four in the first quarter and six at halftime, so we did a better job of valuing the ball in the second half. Which is something we have to do.”
Deondre Hawkins, Palm Springs’ senior forward: Hillcrest did not have a defensive answer inside for Hawkins, who scored seven points in the first quarter to get the Indians off the mark, eventually finishing with 19 thanks to nine field goals. Typically a good free-throw shooter, Hawkins made only one of four attempts from the line, minimizing his point total.
John Rich, Palm Springs’ senior guard: Rich was silent in the first quarter, but notched 21 over the final three quarters and 16 in the second half. Rich also scored five straight to get the Indians rolling in the second half, including a two-point goal that gave the Indians a 38-23 lead midway through the third period.
Palm Springs went for nearly 10 minutes without a turnover, spanning the latter parts of the second quarter until early in the fourth. They committed only 10 turnovers for the game, while Hillcrest had 19…Palm Springs’ three-point specialist Kaelan Richter had four baskets in the game, all from behind the three-point arc, giving him 12 for the game.
Palm Springs 60, Hillcrest 39
Hillcrest 6 14 9 10 -39
Palm Springs 15 14 17 14 -60
Hillcrest (39) (FG FT-FTA TP) — DJ Molett, 2 1-2 7, Gio Marquez, 2 5-6 10, Garrett Barth, 2 0-0 4, Nduati Macharia, 1 0-0 3, Seth Neal 0 2-2 2, Cristobal Magadleno, 1 0-0 2, Brandon Spencer 4 3-4 11. Totals: 12 11-14 39
Palm Springs (60) (FG FT-FTA TP) — John Rich, 7 5-6 21, Demo Carbajal, 0 2-2 2, Kaelan Richter, 4 0-0 12, Damion Lee, 2 2-2 6, Deondre Hawkins, 9 1-4 19. Totals: 21 10-14 60
3-Point Goals: Hillcrest: 4 (DJ Molett 2, Gio Marquez 1, Nduati Macharia 1). Palm Springs: 6 (John Rich 2, Kaelan Richter 4).