QUARTZ HILL — The Quartz Hill boys basketball team kept up its intensity level the entire game on Tuesday night against Shadow Hills.
The Rebels’ intensity translated into an aggressive defense, a balanced offense attack and their deepest playoff run in years.
Quartz Hill never trailed after midway through the first quarter and held on for a 63-53 victory over Shadow Hills in a CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA second-round game at Quartz Hill High School.
Quartz Hill (14-11) will host Moorpark on Thursday at 7 p.m. in a quarterfinal game. Moorpark defeated Portila 65-50 on Tuesday in the second round.
“We played with energy,” Quartz Hill senior Shemar Fisher said. “Our intensity was there. We had intensity.
“It feels good. We just know we have to play hard and keep fighting.”
The Rebels jumped out to an early lead, watched Shadow Hills (20-9) take a 9-8 advantage and then took the lead for good, 12-9.
“We played really good,” Quartz Hill senior Erick Balcazar said. “We started off strong. We played together. We knew if we played strong on defense we would win.”
Quartz Hill led 15-9 at the end of the first quarter, 25-16 at halftime and 47-34 entering the fourth quarter.
The Rebels had an answer when the Knights tried to make a run.
“We always had an answer for what they did,” Quartz Hill coach Bernard Nichter said. “Unbelievable. I’m so proud of them.”
Shadow Hills cut the deficit to 10, 40-30, late in the third quarter, but Quartz Hill finished with a 7-4 run to close the quarter.
“We played hard, which is our mantra,” Nichter said. “I’m so happy for the kids. This year they’ve been through a lot. We haven’t been here in a long time. I’m so proud of them.”
Balcazar scored 10 of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter.
Quartz Hill juniors Jacob Mani, Josiah Taylor and Alaijian Russell each finished with 12 points apiece.
“This is personally the first time playing in a game like this,” Mani said. “I’m happy to get this win. It’s awesome to have all the support and everyone cheering you on.
“We did awesome. Our free throws could have been better. We did enough to win the game, even with our free throws.”
Quartz Hill made 21-of-41 free throws, while Shadow Hills made 11-of-33.
Both teams had foul trouble, as both teams had two players foul out.
Fisher fouled out with one minute remaining in the game after hitting a 3-pointer with 4:20 left to give the Rebels a 59-41 lead.
Taylor fouled out early in the fourth quarter.
Mani did not foul out after picking up his fourth foul with 7:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Less than two minutes later, Mani completed a three-point play to give the Rebels a 31-24 lead.
“Once someone gets a shot, we all start making shots,” Mani said. “We all get our confidence.
“We’re always conditioning. We practice, practice, practice.”
Shadow Hills junior Deonta Strange fouled out in the first minute of the fourth quarter, finishing with 12 points.
Strange was the only other Knight to finish in double figures after junior Dominic Escobar, who scored a game-high 27 points, 22 in the second half.
Escobar shot six free throws with three seconds remaining when Quartz Hill was assessed three technical fouls. Escobar made 2-of-6 free throws.
Balcazar was intentionally fouled and exchanged words and shoves with a Shadow Hills player, prompting Quartz Hill’s assistant coach, trainer and one player off the bench and onto the floor.
Shadow Hills junior center Jake Shipley was given a technical with 6:17 remaining in the game. Shipley was initially called for a foul and reacted when the raucous Quartz Hill crowd egged him on. Shipley, a solid presence in the middle for Shadow Hills, did not return.
School officials and security kept a close watch on fans to finish the game, and had them all leave together after it had finished.
Balcazar said the Rebels got confidence from their first-round victory, a 69-66 win over No. 3 seed Adelanto, which beat Quartz Hill 64-51 on Jan. 5 at the Antelope Valley Tournament.
“That’s a huge upset,” Nichter said. “We had played them before. I had a pretty good idea what we could do. The kids are buying in. We’re finally getting the kids to buy in.”
The first-round win also re-enforced the importance of playing with intensity for all 32 minutes.
“It gave us a lot of confidence,” Balcazar said of the win. “If we play hard, just like we did in the first two rounds, we can beat anybody.”