A short-handed Desert Pines boys basketball team stayed with Eldorado step for step during the first half Friday.
But the Sundevils used a strong third quarter to pull away and then held on for a 67-66 home victory.
Desert Pines was playing without at least three players while the school investigates whether the Jaguars used an ineligible player for part of the season.
The Jaguars had four students in street clothes on the bench, including leading scorer Pierre Jackson. Coach Chancellor Davis said “maybe two or three” players were held out of the game.
Eldorado coach Mike Uzan said his team turned up the defensive pressure during the third quarter, when the Sundevils outscored Desert Pines 20-10 to take a 53-42 lead.
“We just played better defense,” he said. “We limited second-chance opportunities and just converted as far as stopping them.”
The Sundevils also got a boost from their low-post players during the quarter, when Marcus Moreland had eight points and reserve Curtis Stewart scored six, including a pair of stick-backs.
“Having that inside presence just opened up everything else for us,” Uzan said.
The Sundevils maintained the double-digit lead for much of the fourth quarter and led 61-48 with 3:32 remaining.
But Eldorado got sloppy and the Jaguars stormed back behind junior guard Tyler Larson, who scored 12 points in the final 3:07.
“We played with a lot of energy, leaving it all out on the court,” Davis said. “It was the last regular-season game and the kids played hard, real hard.”
Eldorado committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter, mostly down the stretch.
“Fatigue set in a little bit,” Uzan said. “We just made silly turnovers and key mistakes.”
Moreland had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Mitrell Clark had 16 points, six assists and four steals to lead Eldorado.
Davis said the uncertainty about his roster made it difficult to prepare for the game.
“It was kind of weird, because I really don’t know what’s going on, to tell you the truth,” he said. “We just had to do what we had to do with what we had.”
Larson compiled 25 points and 11 rebounds, and Reggie Shaw had 18 points, seven rebounds and three steals for Desert Pines.