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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
Sometimes in sports, records are deceiving. When the Cerritos High boys basketball team travelled to Artesia High for the Suburban League opener for both teams, it was five games under .500 while the Pioneers had gone 9-5 in late November and throughout December.
But Cerritos went wire to wire and held a double digit lead for the final 28:33 in its 80-55 win last Friday night. It’s the eighth straight win over the Pioneers and the sixth straight victory on Artesia’s court. If one could lead to a turning point right now in Cerritos’ season, it would have to come from a 47-44 loss to Downey High on Dec. 23 at Staples Center. The Dons were close to upsetting the Vikings but since then, have gone 4-1 following the Artesia win. Needless to say, the Dons have been building momentum.
“Yeah, I think so,” said Cerritos co-head coach Kevin Enomoto. “The game against Downey; they’re a good team. We’ve played them three times, so we’re battle tested. When you’re playing Downey three times, you’re getting three good games out of it. That was the biggest thing this season.
“We’ve gotten good games from other teams too, and that has helped our guys get better,” he continued. “It’s kind of like a process. It was a learning process in the beginning, but now our guys are kind of clicking. They’re starting to get it.”
Cerritos scored the first eight points of the game and led 24-9 after the first quarter as junior Vincent Biscoe was on fire. He connected on three straight three-pointers and scored 11 points in the quarter. He would add another long range basket in the second quarter and finished with 16 points.
Also having a hot hand was junior Destin Flucas, who scored five points in each of the first two quarters before adding 11 more in the third quarter. Flucas has scored at least 12 points in seven straight games. And for added measure, junior Jyvonnte Moore would also score 16 points with half coming in the third quarter. Those three players have been held to less than 10 points a dozen times in 46 combined games played.
“They’ve been playing really well,” Enomoto said. “Especially in the Mt. Carmel Tournament, Jyvonnte and Destin have been doing a lot of the scoring and rebounding for us. When they’re going, we’re really going. I like their energy.”
After building a 20-point halftime lead, the Dons weren’t about to take the foot off the gas pedal, even when the Pioneers scored 25 points in the third quarter. Cerritos reeled off 11 straight points over the final 2:28 of the third quarter to lead 65-42, then led by no fewer than 17 points in the fourth quarter. Also having a solid performance was junior Dorian Harris, a transfer from Gahr High who was making his Cerritos debut. Harris scored eight points, all in the second half.
Cerritos defeated Bellflower High 80-58 this past Monday before falling to Mayfair High 78-63 this past Wednesday. The Dons (7-11 overall, 2-1 in league), will visit Norwalk High on Wednesday.
“That’s something we’re trying to convey to the boys,” Enomoto said of the record being misleading a bit. “They knew that we were playing a tough schedule, keep their spirits up and that it was just a learning process.”
Artesia was led by senior Devion Smith (22 points) and senior Kody Pitts and sophomore Heder Gladden, each with 10 points. The Pioneers would bounce back to edge Norwalk 62-60 in overtime on a buzzer-beater from senior Alex Linao. Artesia led by as many as 13 points late in the second quarter, then trailed 49-44 with 3:42 left in regulation and 55-50 with 22.8 seconds remaining.
But Gladden knocked down a basket eight seconds later and senior Albert Pascual hit a tying three-pointer as he was falling backwards with 1.8 ticks left to send the game into the extra session. Smith came off the bench to score 27 points while Gladden added 14 points.
Artesia visited La Mirada High this past Wednesday and fell to the league favorites 79-44. The Pioneers (10-7, 1-2) will go to Bellflower tonight and John Glenn High on Wednesday.
Preceding the boys game against Artesia, the Cerritos girls were never challenged in a 58-15 romp. The star of the game for the Lady Dons (8-8, 3-0), who also defeated Bellflower 49-30 this past Monday and Mayfair 53-51 two nights later, was senior Ifeoma Okoli. She led everyone with 14 points, eight rebounds and three blocks against the Pioneers. Senior Teresa Torres added a dozen points while senior Cailey Vitug had seven assists, four steals and three rebounds.
The Pioneers would get seven points, four rebounds and three steals from junior Cassidy Valle and six points from junior Cesilia Cabrera. Artesia would then lose a close game to Norwalk, 46-36, this past Monday as Valle added another 14 points to her season total. Cabrera scored eight points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Pioneers dropped to 6-8, 0-2.
The Pioneers were trailing 36-21 with 4:23 left in the third quarter before scoring 12 straight points to trail 36-33 with 5:18 left in the game. But Norwalk went on a 10-0 run over the next four and a half minutes.
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