The DesignPro Division championship game between Palm Desert and Viewpoint on Friday at the Rancho Mirage gym had a rhythm to it.
Viewpoint would have an offensive spurt. Then the stingy Aztecs defense would clamp down for a long stretch. Viewpoint would find another spurt. Again, the Palm Desert defense would shut them down.
So the question was, could the Aztecs’ offense do enough to make those great defensive stretches pay off? Unfortunately for Aztecs’ fans, the answer was no. Viewpoint earned a 47-36 victory and took home the trophy.
READ ABOUT:A 7-foot-3 sophomore hoopster from Utah
READ ABOUT:The Ball family making basketball fun again
Coach James Serven said the offense is still a work in progress, but the defense is a source of pride.
“We held them under 50, which is one of our goals,” Serven said. “We like to win, too, of course, but they’re working really hard to get better offensively and we can’t be prouder of the overall effort.”
It’s the third consecutive year the Aztecs have made it to the championship game of a tournament, and that kind of consistency is something that hasn’t happened often in school history.
In Friday’s game against the speedy, and fundamentally sound team from Calabasas, the Aztecs started slowly.
Viewpoint began with one of those spurts, taking a 7-0 lead just a minute and a half into the game. After settling in, the Palm Desert defense took over for the next eight minutes, holding the Patriots scoreless.
The Aztecs chipped away in the mean time, and after Will Struthers scored five quick second quarter points, the Aztecs took a 9-7 lead.
It was time for another Viewpoint spurt, though as they scored the next seven points to retake the lead. They held it for a 22-18 halftime edge. The third quarter, though, is where the Patriots really gained separation.
“There was a run their in the third quarter, where they got a couple transition baskets and pulled away. We weren’t able to come back after that,” Serven said.
It was a 17-3 run to start the second half, which included three 3-pointers by Andrew Reyes and was punctuated by a breakaway dunk by Viewpoint’s talented senior Michael Okparaocha. That made it 39-21 and had the Aztecs in too deep of a hole.
They had one more defensive stand, holding the Patriots to just 8 points in the final 10 minutes of the game, but they could get no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
“I just told them we’re as proud of them as any group we’ve ever had,” Serven said. “That’s the hardest-working group around. They do everything we ask of them, and we’re just going to keep working.”
Struthers led the way for the Aztecs, who fell to 9-5 on the year, with 16 points. Juan Desantiago had nine points all on threes, and Dylan Ulber had seven points. Struthers and Ulber made the all-tournament team.
The Patriots (10-5) had a game-high 19 from Okparaocha and 14 more from Reyes.