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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW: Artesia boys basketball builds big lead before going into late slump

By Loren Kopff

LAWNDALE-Early on, it looked like the Artesia boys basketball team would blow out Leuzinger on its home court in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III-A first round game this past Wednesday. Artesia built a 14-point lead and led until the final minutes of the game before falling to the Olympians 51-44.

The Pioneers (12-15) scored eight straight points after Leuzinger’s Darrian Williams scored the game’s first basket off a turnover. Artesia led 14-6 after the first quarter, then scored the first six points of the second quarter. When the first half had ended, junior post Kobe Tupu, who was recently added to the varsity squad, sophomore post Devion Smith and freshman post Gary Williams all had six points.

But little by little, the Pioneer League champions, seeded 12th in the division, chipped away at Artesia’s lead and a three-pointer from Shan Temple tied the contest at 27-27 late in the third quarter. The game would be tied five more times before Darrian Williams sank a pair of free throws with 2:57 left in the game to give Leuzinger the lead for good. It would be part of a 14-0 run over a three-minute span.

After shooting 12 of 27 from the field in the first half, the Pioneers were held to five field goals in 20 attempts in the second half. Smith led the Pioneers, who finished in fifth place in the Suburban League, with 10 points while Tupu and Gary Williams each added nine points. Tupu also grabbed 10 rebounds and had four assists.

In other boys basketball playoff action, Cerritos hosts Citrus Valley tonight in a Division II-A first round game. The Dons (16-11) finished in second place in the Suburban League and are seeded 10th. With a win, Cerritos would face either Hart or Torrance on Tuesday.

Gahr blasted visiting Irvine 96-62 this past Wednesday in a Division III-AA first round game. The second seeded Gladiators (22-6) ended a two-year streak of falling in the first round. The Gladiators will face the winner of the El Monte/Palm Desert game tonight.

Norwalk lost to Northwood 57-35 this past Wednesday night in a Division III-AA first round game on the road. The Lancers end their season at 9-18.

Valley Christian eliminated Calvary Chapel Santa Ana 60-48 this past Wednesday in a Division IV-A first round game. The fifth-seeded Crusaders (20-8) will face either Orcutt Academy or 12th seeded St. Bonaventure tonight.

Whitney saw its season end following a 52-38 road loss to Trinity Classical Academy this past Wednesday night in a Division IV-A first round game. The Wildcats conclude the season at 10-15.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Games that were played on Feb. 19 included Gahr at South Hills and Norwalk at La Sierra in Division III-AA action and Whitney at University Prep in a Division IV-A first round game. Suburban League champion Cerritos will host Dos Pueblos on Saturday in a Division II-A first round game.

BOYS SOCCER

Suburban League co-champion Norwalk hosts South Torrance today in a Division IV first round game. The Lancers concluded the regular season at 14-5-1 overall, 9-3 in league action. Should Norwalk win, it will play the survivor of the Apple Valley/Vista Murrieta game on Wednesday.

In Division VI action, Olympic League champion Valley Christian hosts Whitney, the fourth place representative out of the Academy League, today. The Crusaders (9-7-2, 6-0-2), who advanced to the semifinals last season, won the Olympic League for the third straight season. Whitney (8-8, 7-5) is making its second straight trip to the playoffs after staying home back to back seasons. The winner of the game will most likely face top seeded South Pasadena on Wednesday.

GIRLS SOCCER

Artesia and Cerritos, the third and fourth place teams in the Suburban League respectively, travelled in their Division IV first round games on Feb. 19. Artesia went to Coastal Canyon League champion Moorpark while Cerritos ventured to Mission Hills to meet Alemany, the Sunshine League champions.