LANCASTER — The game felt like an eternity.
The game between Vasquez and Desert Christian was filled with free throws and turnovers. But it was to be expected with the type of styles that the Mustangs and Knights like to employ.
Both teams played hard, diving on balls, hustling after plays, pressure defense.
It was just a shame that one team had to lose.
It was Desert Christian that extended its winning streak to seven games after a thrilling 51-45 victory over visiting Vasquez, Thursday evening at Desert Christian High School.
Both teams love pressure defense. The Knights used a full-court press to their advantage, while the Mustangs preferred the half-court trap.
The teams combined for 54 turnovers. And with the pressure defense comes fouls. Both combined for 63 free-throw attempts.
“We have to learn how to handle pressure. At times we couldn’t get our offense going. But I’m proud of the guys. I’m seeing a willingness to want to win,” Desert Christian head coach David Nurse said. “We still have to be smarter on defense. We tell our kids all the time about basketball IQ. We have to know when people will make runs at you. But the kids worked hard and they pulled out the win.”
In a somewhat lethargic first half by both teams, the Knights (8-2) turned up the temperature and opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run, four points by Caleb Gott and three more by Isaiah Diaz, giving Desert Christian a 28-21 lead.
Later in the quarter, Frank Flores scored six consecutive points to extend the Knights’ lead to 34-24 with 3:12 remaining in the third quarter. The Mustangs (1-2) hit a lull offensively as they were held without a field goal for a little more than six minutes.
The drought was finally broken by Vasquez’s Riley Colfer who converted the conventional 3-point play. The Mustangs remained close in the quarter, despite only connecting on two field goals, as they finished 7-of-10 from the free-throw line. The Knights were only 3-of-12 in the quarter from the free-throw line.
“Coming into the game, I knew Desert Christian was going to play hard. They compete and they connected on the first punch and we took too long to react. With 30 turnovers, you’re not going to win a game like that,” Vasquez head coach Myles Conkrite said. “If we cut those in half, we’re up in this game. And a lot of times they scored off those turnovers. These are errors we can correct, but if we take care of the ball, the game doesn’t look like this.”
The game began to seemingly get out of reach after Desert Christian opened the fourth quarter with an 8-1 run to lead 44-32 with 5:43 remaining. Still, the Knights continued to send the Mustangs to the line and Vasquez stayed close, 46-40, with 3:37 remaining.
Kylen Colfer netted two free throws for the Mustangs to trim the lead to 46-42 with 2:22 remaining. Vasquez had its chances following a missed shot by the Knights, however, it couldn’t get to within two after it missed two consecutive shots.
“We needed to limit our turnovers. I thought we were too loose with the ball tonight, but it’s something we can improve on,” said Kylen Colfer, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “We definitely have potential, but we’re a young team and sometimes we get antsy. As the season goes along, we’ll limit our turnovers.”
Late free-throw shooting by Desert Christian’s William Hart and Flores sealed the victory.
“We won’t beat a good team if we play like this. We could have played better as a team. I think we started off bad but picked it up in the second half,” Desert Christian’s Joseph Pines said. “We can’t foul under pressure. When they started to come back I think we got nervous. We definitely have to be better under pressure. We’ll build off this and this is good experience for us.”
As a team, Vasquez shot just 17-of-34 from the free-throw line, while the Knights were just 10-for-29. The Mustangs committed 29 turnovers compared to Desert Christian’s 25.
Riley Colfer finished with 14 points for the Mustangs. Flores and Gott each finished with 12 for the Knights and Pines added eight.