Photo by Eric Newman

Desert Vista boys basketball coach Gino Crump said this is a ‘legacy season’, and the Thunder extended it at least one more game with a 76-61 home win over the Cesar Chavez Champions in the first round of the 6A playoffs.

A team that prides itself on defense, the Thunder went down 5-0 thanks to solid early play by Cesar Chavez freshman guard TyTy Washington, who hit an open three-pointer for the first basket of the game. However, from that point Desert Vista tightened up its perimeter defending and made it difficult for any of the Champion players to get anything easy near the basket.

“Our main plan was to trap their best players, and just help each other on the help side,” senior forward Jaden Rollins said.

The forwards and centers were at the forefront of the defense, contesting and blocking shots throughout the game, which allowed for transition opportunities, including fast breaks and lay ups, for the Thunder’s talented guards.

“Against this team, we didn’t do a lot of pressing. But we could take chances on the perimeter because we have great defenders in the back,” Desert Vista coach Gino Crump said.

One beneficiary from the steals and blocks manufactured by the defense was junior guard Tyrek Chambers, who got the offense going early for the Thunder. He poured in the team’s first eight points and assisted on a three-pointer that brought Desert Vista to an 11-10 lead that they never surrendered the rest of the game.

Chambers, who scored ten of his 20 total points in the opening quarter, was aggressive in getting to the rim in transition, scoring mainly on lay ups and free throws throughout the night. The rest of the team seemed to play more inspired following his initial barrage as well.

“It pushed the lead up a little more. I’m kind of like Draymond Green for this team, I’m the energy guy, so I get us pumped up. So, once they all see me motivated they are too,” he said.

And perhaps more importantly, his ability to get to the rim allowed the rest of the players to settle into their own offensive roles and have solid scoring nights themselves.

“We know that if he gets going, they’ll focus on him and that will open up everyone else, and we’ll all know what to do from there,” Rollins said.

It was that sharing of the basketball, and offense created from defensive success, that got the Thunder the lead, and Desert Vista kept attacking all night long.

Transition points led to three fourth-quarter dunks by senior Wesley Harris and a comfortable lead. Up by 23 points with 2:46 left in the game, the back-ups were inserted into the game, which allowed the four varsity seniors to revel a bit in their victory on the home floor.

An upcoming quarterfinal on Friday against Red Mountain, whom the Thunder beat 84-40 earlier in the season, will constitute the last home game for Desert Vista’s seniors, win or lose. For Rollins, that is all the motivation needed to come out and compete for a spot in the final four.

“This is so special. One down, three to go,” he said. We’ve got to get one more on the home floor and do this for all of us.”

Coach Crump said the key for the remainder of the tournament will be to continue playing strong defensively, and for the players to all trust each other to make the correct plays on that end. He said he believes the team is playing as well as it has all year, and will need to keep that going to advance.

“We’re just starting to come together at the right time,” he said.

The win moves Desert Vista to 24-4 on the season, and the Thunder will take on Red Mountain at Desert Vista High School on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Cesar Chavez ends its season at 19-10.

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