It’s the tale of two improvements on Tuesday night in Coachella Valley.
On the visiting side, Lompoc High boys basketball went from posting just six wins one season ago to catapulting itself into the CIF Southern Section Division 4A quarterfinals. On the home side, Desert Hot Springs had never won 20 games in a season or even a single playoff game – but are currently 20-7 and now own a school first two postseason victories.
And both the Braves and Golden Eagles will meet with a trip to the CIF-SS D4A semifinals on the line in the 7 p.m. road contest for LHS.
Braves head coach Paul Terrones, who took full rein of the boys basketball program one year ago, is aware his team won’t be the only revitalized program inside the DHS gym come Tuesday.
“Just like us, their record isn’t proof of who they are,” Terrones said by phone. “They shoot and defend well.”
Lompoc, 14-15 overall and unranked in its own division, got to this point with a convincing 66-51 road win over Encino Holy Martyrs Armenian in the first round, then the stunning 53-51 home upset against the division’s sixth ranked team San Bernardino Aquinas last Friday. Terrones cites grit, focus and a fierce preseason schedule that featured PAC-8 opponents as the three primary reasons behind Lompoc’s playoff run.
“Growing up here (in Lompoc), it’s built in them at an early age (the toughness),” Terrones said. “We have youth programs that prepare them for high school and do a really good job of that. Plus they make the kids tough before they get to high school. It’s what they’re raised with.”
The Golden Eagles, ranked No. 14 in the division, have tasted success this season while lacking ideal size. Their tallest players according to Max Preps are juniors Bryant Rodriguez and Isiaha Davis, who are listed at 6-foot-4. But Terrones believes that Desert Hot Springs will be more versatile compared to the Braves’ last two playoff opponents.
“Desert Hot Springs can do both – shoot and get to the rim,” Terrones said.
And this was a Golden Eagles program that endured periods of four or three-win campaigns. Head coach Justin Flores’ first team squeezed in just four wins during his debut back in 2014-15. Before this season, only Gregory Hunter guided the Golden Eagles to 15 victories, which came in the 2010-11 campaign.
But now, Desert Hot Springs boys basketball has gotten red-hot in a city known for seeing temperatures rise to nearly 120 degrees during the summer. Flores got his team to become one of three De Anza League teams to reach the 20-win pinnacle this season. Plus, the Golden Eagles know how to light a scoreboard up – with six games that saw DHS score past the 90-point threshold, including the 117-60 trouncing of Yucca Valley on Jan. 24.
Overall, Terrones and the Braves know that two teams peaking at the right time – plus two programs re-energizing themselves – are, fittingly, fighting to keep their CIF and state hopes alive in these playoffs.
“It’s been pretty cool (to get praise from the city of Lompoc),” Terrones said. “People walk-up and say congrats. But I’m happy for our kids. They’ve kept their heads down and kept working.”
Boys soccer prepares for defending CIF champion
While the Braves boys basketball team will prepare for the road trip to the Desert Empire, the boys soccer team will look to end San Bernardino Indian Springs’ season in the Inland Empire.
But it’s an Indian Springs team that LHS head coach Marco Vargas says tasted two types of success not too long ago.
“They were the D5 CIF runner-up last year…and the D4 state champs,” Vargas said on Monday.
The Los Padres League champion Braves opened the CIF-SS D4 postseason with a tough 1-0 home win over Leuzinger on Friday, energized by the strong defensive play of goalkeeper Ricky Garay and his five second half blocks at the net. Jovanny Limas booted the lone goal for LHS.
Now, LHS will take on a Coyotes team that’s 17-2-7 overall and the outright winner of the San Andreas League on Wednesday afternoon in San Bernardino.
“We will look to slow down their playmakers in the center and midfield,” Vargas said.
Lompoc High boys wrestling gets three in Master’s meet
The wrestling season isn’t over yet for a trio of LHS wrestlers who clinched their spot in the CIF Southern Section Masters meet on Saturday during the CIF section championships in Temecula.
Dechlan Sparrow (182-pound class), Connor Hayes (152-pounds) and Curtis Espinoza (126) all punched their tickets to the Masters meet with strong individual marks in the CIF-SS championships. Sparrow wrestled his way to third while Espinoza and Hayes got defaulted to fourth and sixth, respectively, due to injuries.
As a team, the Braves took 10th overall at Great Oak High, said assistant head coach Fred Hayes.