LANCASTER — Desert Christian’s Garrett van Boheemen said his team’s success has been mainly because of its “bread and butter,” which has been its defense.
It was the Knights’ defense that played a key role and helped van Boheemen convert a conventional 3-point play late in the fourth quarter to keep Desert Christian undefeated in the Desert Mountain League with a 67-59 victory over visiting Mojave, Friday night at Desert Christian High School.
“We want to go undefeated in league and our 2-0 start is a confidence boost for us,” the junior guard said. “We had a successful preseason and tonight I think we came out strong. They were able to fight back and at times our defense would collapse, then the game went back and forth like a ping pong game. But overall it was a pretty good performance.”
The Knights (13-6, 2-0) led 52-44 entering the fourth quarter and were able to keep the Mustangs at arm’s length after Caleb Gott stole a pass and converted the bucket to extend the lead to 58-46.
Following the old-fashioned 3-point play by van Boheemen after a steal and fast break, which set up the opportunity, the Knights led 66-57 with 3:01 remaining. That would be Desert Christian’s final field goal of the game and the Mustangs had their opportunities to inch even closer and seize the momentum.
Mojave’s Rae’kwon Alvez stepped in the passing lane and stole the ball and went up for an uncontested dunk, however, he missed, which would have cut the lead to seven. Still trailing by nine, the Mustangs missed several chip shots underneath the basket and the Knights preserved their lead. Alvez finally cut the lead to 66-59 with 71 seconds remaining, but Mojave would get no closer.
“We didn’t come out as strong and we missed way too many free throws. I missed way too many free throws,” said Alvez, coming off a 45-point effort on Thursday against Immanual Christian but was only 2-of-9 from the free-throw line. “(Desert Christian) came out strong and we didn’t so we had to play catch up the whole game. We have to come out stronger and keep it up throughout the whole game.”
Alvez was right about playing catch up as Desert Christian jumped out to a 13-4 lead early in the first quarter. The Mustangs (5-9, 0-1) closed the gap to 17-14, but each time they would get close the Knights would respond with a run of their own.
In the second quarter Desert Christian used a 9-0 run to grab a 29-16 advantage, while holding Mojave without a field goal for the first five minutes of the quarter. Its first field goal of the quarter came from Dante Turner, but still the Mustangs trailed by 10.
“We knew they were going to be faster. But I told the guys we have to be smarter and play more disciplined and we did that. At times we played erratic, but we settled down,” Desert Christian head coach David Nurse said. “I put a lot of pressure on the kids at practice. They work so hard. Our defense played well and that’s how we win games.”
The Knights remained with a constant double-digit lead, but Alvez changed that in the third quarter after he went on a personal 7-0 run to cut into the lead and Desert Christian led 45-38 with 2:11 remaining.
The Mustangs trailed by eight, 49-41, before Mojave’s Steven Richards netted a 3-pointer followed by another by Alvez, who finished with a game-high 27 points, and the Knights only led 49-44. Jerek Stevenson stopped the bleeding and hit a 3-pointer for Desert Christian as it regained a 52-44 lead.
“We just have to get back to the basics and work on our fundamentals,” Mojave head coach Francis Cota said. “We’re picking it up as the season goes on. We’re playing more basketball and having less attitude. We’re continuing to improve and headed in the right direction.”
The Mustangs shot a dismal 4-of-21 from the free-throw line. The Knights weren’t much better as they were just 15-of-31.