After surviving the tense, opening minutes of its CIF Division 5A second-round game vs. Riverside County Education Academy (Moreno Valley) on Friday night, the host Desert Christian Academy boys’ basketball team soon found the groove which led the Conquerors to 11 consecutive wins and a No. 3 divisional ranking heading into the postseason.
Behind a team-high 16 points from senior forward Ananias Bullock, 14 more from fellow forward Ben Roethler and a 13-point night from senior guard Derick Rodriguez, DCA rolled into the CIF semifinals with a convincing 68-45 win over the Wolfpack.
“That was a good team, and I think we needed to respond to the level at the beginning,” said Conquerors’ head coach Matt Garrison. “Coming out of our league, it’s a little tough to get that level of intensity and strength. But once we got the nerves out with the home crowd and settled down, we got our rhythm and started executing.”
Grabbing an 11-10 edge to end the opening salvo, DCA (19-5) evidenced the recipe of senior leadership, length and athleticism which led the hosts to their second consecutive Victory League Crown this year. After outscoring the visitors 22-6 in the second quarter and taking a 33-16 lead to half, the Conquerors opened the third with a 9-3 run and never looked back.
“We came out a little slow to start, and it was a grind,” said Bullock. “We just needed to slow down and make sure we were getting the shots we wanted.”
Desert Christian also received an impressive 22 points from its bench in the victory.
Noting the his team may need to play a more physical style of ball to capture a CIF crown, the head coach nonetheless is well aware of DCA’s depth of talent.
“We’ve got good guard play, and we’ve also got some bigs that can come out and shoot from perimeter,” added Garrison. “Everyone has the ability to get to the basket, each guy can guard two or three positions, so we’re very interchangeable. And I think we’ve got the depth on our bench to make changes, so that’s gonna’ be good for us down the road.”
Riverside (11-6) entered the night as winners of six of its past seven games and a second place finish in the Warrior League. In the loss, the Wolfpack received a game-high 24 points from guard Chris Callison.
Desert Christian’s appearance in the Division 5A quarterfinal will occur on Tuesday night at 7: p.m., however, its opponent remains unknown. DCA is set to play the winner of Avalon High and Providence (Santa Barbara), yet that game, originally slated for Friday night, was postponed by rain.
According to Garrison, should Providence win, the Patriots will travel to Bermuda Dunes; should Avalon win, then DCA will travel to Catalina Island to play the Lancers.