A mid-December snowstorm forced fans to wait more than a month for a matchup of the area’s top boys basketball teams.
But No. 1 Cheyenne wasted no time taking control of the game Saturday.
The Desert Shields (15-2) made five of their first six shots and raced to a 16-point first-quarter lead on the way to a 75-65 home win over second-ranked Palo Verde (13-3).
“We were really focused for this game,” Cheyenne coach Teral Fair said. “Obviously Palo Verde’s been playing really well this season. It’s a huge conference game for us.
“The way we jumped out tonight, I was real proud of them.”
While Cheyenne was hot early, Palo Verde was cold, missing five of its first six shots. That was merely a preview of what would happen through the first three quarters, in which the Panthers shot 14-for-43 (32.5 percent).
“We came out with just a little bit too much respect for this team,” Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. “We want to respect every team, but I felt like we came out with a little bit too much respect and without concentrating on what we needed to do as a team. We focused more on them as a team.”
Cheyenne’s quickness on defense appeared to give Palo Verde problems, especially during the first quarter. The Panthers turned the ball over seven times in the period, helping Cheyenne sprint to a 25-9 lead.
“We really pride ourselves on our defense,” Fair said. “I always preach to our kids that that’s the thing that kind of separates us from some of the other good programs in town. We spend most of our time in practice on defense.”
Elijah Johnson had 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Desert Shields. Chris McCall supplied 18 points, Demetric Williams 17 and J’Quon Wroten 14.
Moses Morgan topped Palo Verde with 17 points and nine rebounds, but most of that damage came after the game was decided. Morgan was held scoreless in the first half.
Fans won’t have to wait long for the rematch, as the teams are scheduled to play Friday at Palo Verde.
“That’s the good thing,” Riley said. “We can go and look at the tape and figure out what adjustments we need to make. We see these guys next week, and we have time to prepare, not only for them, but for what we need to do better as a team.”