EL CENTRO – The Central Spartans tipped off their 2016 high school Varsity basketball season with a convincing 68-50 victory over the Desert Hot Springs Golden Eagles at Spartan Arena in El Centro Thursday night.
Both teams opened up the game in a zone defense, testing each other’s offensive execution.
Central would get an early spark from three point land in the first quarter on threes by Diego Navarro (#24) and Brandon Argandona (#30). Spartan Charles Thomas (#34) also contributed a bucket, while TJ Smith (#32) dropped in two runners of his own.
Desert Hot Springs answered right back scoring on fast break layups with Fernando Castaneda (#23) netting the majority share of the Golden Eagles’ 13-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
After the Spartans regained the advantage of 14-13 on a 17-foot jumper by Thomas to open up the second quarter, each unit matched three balls for the next five offensive possessions to put the game at 22-20 for the Golden Eagles midway through the period.
Right when Desert Hot Springs’ Joziah Winfrey (#2) scored on back to back layups to gain a 28-22 Golden Eagles lead, the Spartans’ Eric Lopez (#21) caught fire with under four minutes to play in the second quarter, knocking in nine of his 12 total points of the game, including a half court buzzer beater to go into the intermission with Central down only by one at 33-32.
Central dominated the beginning of the second half on both sides of the court. With the exception of a lay-in by Smith, the Spartans scored all the rest of their third quarter points from beyond the arc with Smith and Argandona each burying two long balls.
Aside from a high percentage shooting output, Central only gave up eight points in the entire third quarter closing it out in the lead at 47-41.
The Spartans’ 21-point fourth quarter, coupled with another high intensity defensive performance that held Desert Hot Springs again to single digits, put Central ahead by a significant margin with the last minutes of the game ending on foul and free throw formalities. The final score was 68-50 with Central guard Argandona leading all scorers with a total of 17 points.
“They had great perimeter shooting so we showed them a different defense look in the second half, flip flopping from a 2-3 zone to a 1-2-2,” explained Juan Valenzuela, the Spartans Varsity head coach. “We fiddle-faddle with our defensive schemes according to necessary in-game adjustments. We were able to exploit their defensive overplay with our dribble penetration in the second half. We pride ourselves on defensive effort, and offensive execution, with the sharing of the basketball,” he said, regarding the contributing factors to their victory.