Palo Verde’s boys basketball team has scored 198 points in its last two games.
But after a 96-64 victory over Western on Monday at Valley High, defense was foremost on the mind of coach Jermone Riley.
The Panthers used their full-court pressure to trigger much of their offense, and the victory moved them into the championship game of the Las Vegas Prep Championship.
Palo Verde will play Serra (Calif.) at 4 p.m. today at Las Vegas High.
“Defense first, that’s our motto,” Riley said. “That’s what starts it for us. And not only that, the fans get excited from it. As a player and as a fan and as a coach, I love watching exciting basketball.”
The Panthers forced 19 Western turnovers, turning them into 22 points.
Moses Morgan had 17 points to lead four scorers in double figures. D.J. Stennis added 16, Bryce Cotton 15 and Andrew Topham 12 for the Panthers.
Palo Verde shot 39-for-68 (57.4 percent) from the field. That was largely because of players making an extra pass to open teammates. Ten Panthers had an assist and all 12 who played scored.
“That goes to show you how unselfish our team is,” Riley said.
Palo Verde used a six-point possession to take control in the first half. The Panthers led 23-16 when Morgan was fouled by De’Andre Nash. Nash was whistled for a technical foul as well, and Morgan made all four free throws. He then scored on a drive to make it 29-16 with 5:11 to go in the half.
“This tournament is great for us,” Riley said. “Our goal is to win the state championship and nothing less. And this is a great opportunity for us to be able to close out a tournament and a championship game.”
Nash led Western with 16 points. Melvin Washington added 15 and Johnnie Diggs 12.
Serra (Calif.) 65, Centennial 50 — At Las Vegas, Kevin Johnson made three stick-back baskets in a 45-second span to key a 16-4 run and lift Serra into the tournament final.
Johnson, a 6-foot-10-inch sophomore, scored on a two-handed dunk for his third put-back, giving Serra a 51-40 lead with 5:52 left. Ronnie Stevens’ dunk capped the run and gave Serra a 59-42 lead.
Johnson and Marqise Lee had 12 points each for Serra, which had 10 players with at least four points.
Drew Staker had 11 points and Matt Holley 10 for Centennial.
In other games at Valley:
Coronado 71, Narbonne (Calif.) 61 — Austin Nelson scored 19 points to lead the Cougars over the Gauchos.
Brett Hoisington and Charlie Wakefield each had 16 points for Coronado, which advanced to the ninth-place game.
Eldorado 67, Valley 50 — Marcus Moreland had 14 points as the Sundevils beat the Vikings to move into the fifth-place game.
Ariel Bagget and Charles White each added 12 points for Eldorado. Johnquez Brooks led Valley with 12.
Woodbridge (Calif.) 41, Legacy 38 — The Warriors took a 15-0 lead and stayed ahead the rest of the way, despite a 13-0 run by Legacy.
Yanick Kulich had 14 points to lead Woodbridge, which advanced to the seventh-place game.
Sam Johnson had 14 points and six rebounds for the Longhorns. Ira Haywood added 11 points.
Legacy 70, Douglas 54 — Sain Laine scored 19 points to lead the Longhorns, who pulled away with a 48-point second half.
Delroy Gibbs (14 points), Donavyn Persley (10) and Terrell Evans (10) also scored in double figures.
In other games at Las Vegas High:
Sierra Vista 70, Las Vegas 37 — Quinten Chow scored 16 points and Amir Garrett 15 to carry the Mountain Lions over the Wildcats.
Brian Zimmerman added 10 points for Sierra Vista, which moved into the fifth-place game.
Tony Eackles scored 15 for Las Vegas.
Desert Pines 67, Santiago (Calif.) 66 — Pierre Jackson scored the Jaguars’ winning basket, completing his 26-point game against the Sharks.
Reggie Shaw added 21 points for Desert Pines, which moved into the seventh-place game.
Desert Pines 74, Morningside (Calif.) 66 — Jackson had 28 points to lead the Jaguars.
Daimar Harris added 18 and Tyler Larson 10.
Green Valley 86, Bonanza 68 — Julian Franklin scored 24 points to lead the Gators over the Bengals.
Demetrius Pittman had 12 points and Bill Tuttle 10 for Green Valley.
Arin Matt scored 21 points for Bonanza. Andrew Whiting and Matt Vu added 11 each, Ryan Kelly 10.
Green Valley 69, Cabrillo (Calif.) 55 — Pittman had 18 points and Austin Tebbs 11 as the Gators beat the Conquistadores.
Bonanza 52, Chino (Calif.) 34 — Whiting had 16 points to lead the Bengals. Kelly added 13 and John Grady 10.
Banning (Calif.) 52, Faith Lutheran 49 — Sean Boston had 25 points to carry the victorious Pilots.
Brett Lubbe scored 19 to lead the Crusaders, and Chase Saunders added 10.
Morningside (Calif.) 74, Arbor View 68 — A.J. Harris scored 20 points to lead the Monarchs over the Aggies.
Darington Banks and Kenny Mack each had 15 points for Arbor View, and Anthony Trepagnier scored 11.
Santiago 88, Arbor View 59 — Travis Fulton scored 29 points to lead the Sharks.
The Aggies’ Maiscei Grier had 18 points.