'Dangerous’ Mojave rides hot streak into Sunset Region basketball tournament

Cheyenne and Palo Verde spent most of the season as the favorites in the Sunset Region, splitting time atop the Class 4A coaches’ poll.

But as the Sunset Region boys basketball tournament begins Tuesday, no team is hotter than Mojave.

The Rattlers have won six of their last seven heading into the playoffs, including wins over Cheyenne and Palo Verde. Both teams were ranked No. 1 at the time.

“They’re real dangerous,” Durango coach DeShawn Henry said. “They’re really hot. They’re coming off a big win against Cheyenne.”

The Rattlers (17-8) play at Durango (19-7) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Sunset quarterfinals.

Mojave coach Tony Hopkins credited a loss to rival Cheyenne with turning his team’s season around.

The Rattlers fell 67-53 to the Desert Shields on Jan. 27 to drop to 3-4 in the Northwest League. But Hopkins said his team played well in that game and that it carried over to the second half of league play.

“It was definitely a carryover from the Cheyenne loss that we had,” Hopkins said. “We had not competed the way I wanted us to compete up until that point.

“Whatever ails Mojave High School, Cheyenne High School provides a cure for us.”

The Rattlers entered the season with little experience outside of returning senior starters Anthony Marshall and Kevin James. Senior Nick James was the only other player back from last year’s team, which went 26-2.

Hopkins said it took some time for his young players to adjust to playing in the rugged Northwest League.

“They didn’t know early in the season to do it the Mojave way, and that’s why we struggled sometimes,” Hopkins said.

Durango also endured some early struggles but has won eight consecutive games to close the season.

“They’ve really bonded into a team,” Henry said. “They’ve really come together as a family. When that happens, I really like our chances. Hopefully we can go out there and take care of business.”

In other Sunset quarterfinal matchups, Western (14-11) plays at Palo Verde (20-4), Sierra Vista (24-7) plays at Cheyenne (21-4), and Centennial (16-13) plays at Bishop Gorman (23-5). All games are set for a 6:30 p.m. tip.

The Sunrise Region quarterfinals also are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at host sites.

Coronado (14-10) plays at Desert Pines (21-6), Liberty (16-7) plays at Eldorado (21-7), Las Vegas (15-11) travels to Foothill (19-9), and Canyon Springs (18-9) plays at Silverado.

That all could change pending the outcome of an investigation at Desert Pines into whether the school used an ineligible player during the season.

If the Jaguars are forced to forfeit games, it could change the seedings and matchups or even the teams involved in the playoffs.

Desert Pines principal Tim Stephens said Friday that the issue involved absences from class and that the school would not be able to complete the investigation until Tuesday.