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Cerritos blown out in first round by North Torrance with former alumna at helm

By Loren Kopff

TORRANCE-The past of Cerritos High girls basketball faced her former school, teammate and assistant coach last Thursday in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III-AAA first round game. But it was a game that Cerritos first-year head coach Arial Adams nor North Torrance’s Lauren Kamiyama, also in her first year, wanted this early.
Playing for the second time this season, the Saxons came away with a big victory as they eliminated the Lady Dons from the playoffs in a 64-38 rout. The two schools had faced each other on Dec. 8, also at North Torrance and the hosts were 74-54 winners.
“It’s so funny how life works,” Adams said. “I didn’t want to play a team that I had already played against. But the pressure and the hype, especially on campus and the relationship that [Kamiyama] and I have and the relationship to the school and the coaching staff…obviously it added more pressure. I’m sure it won’t be the first time.”
“Believe it or not I was a little nervous, probably more than our kids because it is against Cerritos,” Kamiyama said. “I never expected to face them in the first round, especially because we played them in the preseason. But it was a big reunion.”
Kamiyama was a four-year varsity starter at Cerritos from 2000-2004 and was a teammate of Adams from 2000-2002. The two were also recent assistants for former head coach Holly Matchett.
Cerritos (14-11 overall) was leading 11-8 late in the first quarter following the second of consecutive baskets by freshman forward Tatiana Fominyam. But the Saxons went on a 15-0 run that ended a minute into the second quarter. Cerritos was able to get within eight points but North Torrance reeled off 19 straight points over the final 4:12 of the half and went into the locker room holding a commanding 43-17 lead.
In the first half, Cerritos was plagued by poor shooting (five of 22 from the field) and bad ball handling (18 turnovers) which led to fast transition points by the Saxons. In fact, the last Cerritos field goal of the first half came at the 4:50 mark courtesy of junior guard Jessica Ignacio.
“They changed some of their presses and we weren’t able to adjust quick enough,” Adams said. “Obviously we prepared for the game. But we had personnel in the wrong spots and we had some personnel not showing up like we typically rely on. Ironically, it was our ball handling this time. We weren’t able to protect the ball, which is something we typically don’t have a problem with doing.”
“That run was huge and for the most part, we closed out a quarter on a run which I felt maybe took out a little bit of their energy and their confidence a little bit,” Kamiyama said. “Did I expect them to go on a 19-0? We’ve been struggling a little bit but at any point, I feel we can go on runs like that just because our defense is so great. It’s improved so much since I first got them at the beginning of the year.”
Even when the Lady Dons scored five points within the first two minutes of the second half, any chances of creeping back into the game were immediately squashed because North Torrance went on a 12-0 run and led 57-22 late in the third quarter. Cerritos was led by sophomore guard Alyssa Movchan, who posted nine points but did not hit a field goal until the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. Senior guard Deshields Fajardo had eight points while Fominyam, who at 5’ 9” had several shots blocked, and junior guard Stacey Suzuki each added seven points. When the teams met in December, Fajardo and Movchan each had 12 points. The Lady Dons were also dominated on the boards, collecting 35 rebounds but only 13 in the first half. At the same time, North Torrance was getting second and third chance shots.
“That’s something we have struggled with all year,” Adams said. “That’s not really a surprise but I guess it’s a surprise against a team like [North Torrance]. They don’t outsize us by that much. As far as crashing the boards and boxing out, that wasn’t our strength at all. We were nonexistent in that part.
“Our biggest problem was our inability to break their press in the frontcourt,” she continued. “As a result, we were struggling on offense. And then, even in our press, our big girls weren’t rotating fast enough. It was a complete mental breakdown.”
The Saxons, who were tri-champions of the Pioneer League with Centennial and South Torrance, were led by Jacki Suminaga (12 points) and Kara Shimasaki (10 points).
“It’s been excellent,” Kamiyama said of her first season at North Torrance. “It’s a lot of work, more than I expected. But I love it. I absolutely love it here. The kids are awesome. The kids that I have fit the style of play I love to give.”
Cerritos loses four players to graduation, one of them a full-time starter, and with the emergence of its young players, will be among the favorites to win the Suburban League next season. The team has five juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen right now as Adams is already looking forward to the 2013-2014 campaign.
“My focus, and I’m going to put this out there, is I’m going to develop post players because we struggled with that,” Adams said. “I will develop post players. We’re going to have strong guards. That’s without a doubt. I’m excited [about next season]. I get to work with Tati in the offseason and I’m excited about that.”