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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
On paper, it looked like a mismatch when the Cerritos High boys basketball team, favorites to win the Suburban League, hosted winless John Glenn High this past Wednesday night. By halftime, the Eagles were within striking range despite scoring 11 points.
But the Dons came out with a blast of energy to open up the second half, going on a 22-2 run before cruising to a 68-30 victory in the league opener for both teams. Cerritos did all of this minus senior Evan Leonard, who has been battling a turf toe injury that has sidelined him for the past seven games. Leonard is expected to return today when the team visits Bellflower High. If not, he should be back when the Dons travel to Norwalk High on Monday.
“We don’t want to rush him because it is a toe injury,” said Cerritos co-head coach Kevin Enomoto. “It’s one of those injuries where it could infect your ankle and your knee.”
Also missing from the game were senior starters Uchenna Nnoli and Brandon Yoon. In fact, only eight players out of the 13 on the team played and early on, the Eagles were trying to hang in the contest. Cerritos led 12-6 after the first quarter on the strength of two three-pointers from junior Jason Fernandez. Glenn (0-13 overall, 0-1 in league) closed the gap to 16-11 on a basket from Cruz Gomez late in the second quarter. But Cerritos scored two baskets in the final minute, then began the second half with seven straight points.
“I think our energy level was really low in the first half,” Enomoto said. “Part of it was maybe because a lot of guys were playing out of position. So we were trying to get guys to learn spots that they’re not really accustomed to. But I thought in the second half they did a lot better job, getting their energy up and playing harder.”
Fernandez went deep two more times in the third quarter , sophomore Byron Sur scored six of his career-high eight points in the stanza and sophomore Nathan Amanuel grabbed four rebounds in the quarter as the Dons outscored the Eagles 30-6. It wasn’t until early in the fourth quarter when Glenn scored on three straight possessions from three different players to make it 54-25. But the youth of Cerritos was still too much for the Eagles to handle.
Fernandez, who has started six of the past seven games, posted a career-high 19 points while sophomore Jyvonnte Moore added 10 points. All eight players scored at least five points as Cerritos improved to 9-7 overall, 1-0 in the circuit. The Dons, who had lost five of their last seven, also snapped a two-game losing streak.
“With Evan out, he’s been starting for us since the Lakewood game (Dec. 19),” Enomoto said of Fernandez. “We know that he’s capable of playing at that level. Even with Brandon out, it’s giving our other sophomore guard, Byron, a little more chance of playing. In the long run, that’s going to help those guys become better varsity basketball players. But Jason is doing a really good job.”
Senior Hugo Anguiano and junior Cruz Gomez each led Glenn with seven points as the team was held to its third lowest offensive output of the season.
Prior to the boys game, the Cerritos Lady Dons were off and running from the opening tip-off as they try to defend their league championship of last season. Cerritos scored the first 20 points of the game, all but four coming off of Glenn turnovers, and routed the Lady Eagles 83-22. Cerritos (7-7, 1-0) benefited from 29 first half turnovers as Glenn could only get eight shots off from the field in the first half.
Glenn (1-14, 0-1) scored consecutive points just twice in the game and watched Cerritos go on scoring sprees of 20-0 in the first quarter, 7-0 and 14-0 in the second quarter and 16-0 in the third quarter. Junior Ifeoma Okoli, coming off her career-high 26 points against Marina High on Dec. 30, led everyone with 19 points and eight rebounds. She also had four steals.
Senior Tatiana Fominyam poured in 12 points and added eight rebounds, five assists and three steals while junior Teresa Torres chipped in with 11 points. Junior Cailey Vitug came off the bench to score nine points, all on three-pointers, and assist on four passes. Both Cerritos teams will also visit Artesia High on Wednesday.
Junior Gloria Hernandez came off the bench to lead Glenn with eight points, which was three more than the combined total of the starters. The Lady Eagles still haven’t won a game on the court and has been limited to 25 points or fewer six times. Both Glenn teams will travel to Mayfair High today before hosting Norwalk on Wednesday.
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