Though Tuesday was not an evening of victory for host Desert Christian Academy, it may still have been a night of enlightenment for the young team.
In the quarterfinal of the CIF Division 6 playoff versus No. 1 seed Renaissance Academy (Altadena), the Conquerors boys’ basketball team – sporting nary a senior on their roster – put up a spirited fight throughout the eve before a season-concluding, 61-52 loss at the hands of the Wildcats. The run to the Elite Eight marked DCA’s deepest playoff run since advancing to the quarters in 2013.
“We competed the whole night,” said Desert Christian head coach Matt Garrison. “We were a little worried in practice yesterday how we were going to come out, but the guys came out and played, and it was a two-point game at halftime. Our guys were feisty and ready to compete, and we’re used to grind-it-down games.”
Feisty indeed, as DCA made it a night closer than most thought it would be against the Arrowhead League champion Wildcats (19-10), a lengthy, seasoned bunch who came to Bermuda Dunes as winners of nine of their past 10 games.
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“That’s a big, big team, and I still thought we rebounded the ball well,” added Garrison. “But they played their matchups really well against us, and got the ball down in the post, which we knew was going to be some trouble.”
Down 29-27 at half, Renaissance began the third with a 15-2 run to take a 15-point lead midway through the third. Yet, evidencing its pluck, DCA followed with a 6-0 run of its own entering the final period trailing by eight.
Hustling down to the wire against a school which knocked them out of the second round of CIF two years ago, the Conquerors fought to make it a two possession game with just under 30 seconds remaining.
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“We followed coach’s game plan, and at the end of the day, that’s a good team and they earned the victory,” said junior forward Ananais Bullock, who led all scorers on the night with 23 points. “But we went down fighting and next year we’ll come back as seniors and hopefully have a shot at that championship.”
Desert Christian (14-12) also received 13 points from Derick Rodriguez and 11 more from fellow junior Ben Roethler.
“Obviously we’re disappointed to lose, but the next season starts today,” concluded Garrison. “With no seniors, it starts today. And with a young team like this, you absolutely need to get to Game Three in the playoffs and let the kids see how exponentially better teams get. And then next year, as seniors, you hope to be in that championship game.”
RENAISSANCE ACADEMY 61, DESERT CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 52
(FG FT-FTA-TP) Santos 4 3-4 15, Galogaza 3 4-8 10, Tadale 1 1-4 3, Djeric 6 6-11 18, Acosta 3 3-4 12, Velanac 1 0-0 3.
(FG-FT-FTA-TP) Bullock 7 8-11 23, Rodriguez 6 0-1 13, Wong 1 0-0 2, Roethler 5 1-2 11, Devane 1 0-1 3.
Renaissance Academy 15 14 16 16 – 61
Desert Christian 11 16 10 15 – 52
3-Point Goals— Renaissance – 8 (Santos 4, Acosta 3, Valanac 1), DCA – 3 (Bullock 1, Devane 1, Rodriguez 1) Fouled Out— None.