Michael Joaquin put on one of the best shooting performances in recent Yucaipa High School basketball history after scoring 31 points in a 67-53 loss to visiting Palm Springs in the season opener last Monday. Trailing 45-22 early in the third quarter, Joaquin went to work by scoring 12 points to finish the quarter to get Yucaipa within 55-38.
Joaquin kept up his long range bombardment by scoring another 11 points within three minutes of the fourth quarter to draw the Thunderbirds to 65-51 with 3:18 left in the game. However, Palm Springs had a playmaker of its own in Parker Hunt, who scored seven of his 21 points in the fourth quarter to secure his team’s victory.
“The more I shoot the better I start getting a feel for the ball,” said Joaquin, who played junior varsity last season. “The more I shoot the more it will open it up for other players to get involved in the offense.”
Except for Jonathan Stradford and Joaquin, it seemed that many Yucaipa players were unwilling to take a shot at the basket. “It was first game jitters. I want to help get their confidence up,” said Joaquin. YHS coach James Simpson said he was not surprised by Joaquin’s performance, calling his junior point guard “aggressive and confident.”
The Thunderbirds were up against a Palm Springs team that made it to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3-A finals last season. Hunt, who was unstoppable, is the returning Desert Empire League MVP and Coachella Valley Player of the Year for the defending league champions. Teammate Tavon Armstrong added 23 points.
But it was Joaquin who drew the loudest raves by connecting on five-of-nine, 3-point attempts. Joaquin did not play in the second quarter and still managed to break the magic 30-point plateau. Stradford is also capable of breaking the 30-point mark but was double-teamed by Palm Springs and chose to go inside where there were few openings.
Joaquin was the only YHS player in double figures. Stradford had six points, four assists, and nine rebounds. Kevin Theis and Matt Kraus added five points each. Simpson said some of his team’s slow start in the first half was due to not having starting center Mikhail Torres, who is injured.
“We made some adjustments but we lost the game on the boards. We didn't block out,” said Simpson. “We knew what we were up against by playing Palm Springs but they did not see our best.” Simpson was happy with the combination of freshman Luke Sheerer and sophomore Peyton von Kaenel who teamed late in the game to become a defensive force.