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Movchan sparks Cerritos in third quarter as Lady Dons nip North Torrance


Cerritos High School (logo)

Cerritos High School (logo) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Loren Kopff

With little time to relish her team’s third place finish in the Gahr Girls Varsity Winter Classic, Cerritos girls basketball head coach Arial Adams had one more task ahead before jumping into Suburban League action. That task was finding a way to avenge last season’s 26-point playoff loss to North Torrance.

The Lady Dons trailed by as many as 14 points early in the second quarter before junior Alyssa Movchan dominated the third quarter and guided her team to a 59-57 home victory over the Saxons last Friday evening. North Torrance had also knocked off Cerritos by 20 points in a nonleague game last December. So, Adams reminded her team of that every five minutes during practice in the few days leading up to the rematch.

“We practiced all week,” Movchan said. “We came in here on New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day to prepare for what we knew we had to do. It paid off.”

North Torrance, coached by former Cerritos star Lauren Kamiyama, scored the first nine points of the game and owned a 21-10 lead after the first quarter as six different players scored. The Lady Dons (9-3) were four of 15 shooting from the field, turned the ball over nine times and grabbed six defensive rebounds in the opening quarter.

With nearly five minutes left in the first half, Adams called a timeout with the Saxons owning a 24-12 lead and whatever she said seemed to work as Cerritos chipped away little by little at its deficit. Junior Taylor Hirata nailed her second three-pointer of the half to make it an 11-point game. Later in the half, Movchan fed a pass to senior Stacey Suzuki who drained an outside shot. Then Movchan took a pass from sophomore Tatiana Fominyam and hit a trifecta at the buzzer to leave the hosts trailing 32-28 at the half.

“That’s not surprising,” Adams said of the first half. “We’re a second half team, so I wasn’t surprised that we came out like that. I think it was just a matter of getting used to the game and getting used to their pressure. We’re not used to playing against teams like [North Torrance]. Most teams zone us. Most teams don’t press us.

“I was cool, calm and collected out here but you better understand that I went [into the locker room] and I let them have it,” Adams added of her halftime speech. “I definitely had to be the fire starter because they weren’t Cerritos basketball. I told them to be aggressive, attack the basket and look inside.”

Movchan, who sat out most of the second quarter due to picking up a pair of first quarter fouls, came out strong in the third quarter. After she scored to make it a 38-34 contest, she assisted on a three-pointer from freshman Cailey Vitug as Cerritos trailed by a point.

Halfway through the stanza, Movchan hit consecutive long distance shots to give the Lady Dons their first lead at 45-43, which they never relinquished. Hirata would add another three-pointer and Vitug sank a pair of free throws as Cerritos reeled off 11 straight points in a three-minute span late in the third quarter.

“We just worked hard and we all motivated each other,” Movchan said. “We knew that we were better than them and we knew that if we tried hard, then we’ll win.”

Movchan ended the third quarter with only her second two-point field goal, then began the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws as Cerritos had its largest lead at that point, 54-46. Cerritos would lead 59-52 but was held scoreless in the final 2:10. Movchan had a chance to seal the game but missed on a long three-pointer with 10.9 seconds remaining. However, after a North Torrance timeout, a potential game-tying shot from Kylie Oshiro bounced off the rim.

Movchan, the team’s leading scorer who has reached double figures eight times, led Cerritos with 18 points including four of seven from three-point land. She also had three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

“Honestly, she was just upset,” Adams said of Movchan’s third quarter performance. “She saw the score; she doesn’t need to be coached. She said, ‘look, I’m taking the ball in my own hands and we’re going to go with that’. I gave her free liberty to shoot the ball. They were leaving her open, so might as well shoot it.”

“[It was] our heart,” Movchan said of the second half rally. “Some teams have it. Sometimes we don’t have it at all. The third quarter is actually our worst time; we come out and we’re lazy.”

Cerritos also received a fine performance from senior Lauren Rhea, making her first start since the middle of December. Rhea quietly scored a career-high 10 points on five of nine shooting from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds.

“Once we realized that we needed to go inside, and I told her to look for it, she got a little fire started,” Adams said. “She’s always had that in her. We had a height advantage a little bit today, which is something that never happens. So, I think that helped with her confidence. She was all over the court.”

Hirata would also add 11 points, marking the first time this season that Cerritos had three players score in double figures in the same game. Cerritos also won nine preseason games for the first time since the 2004-2005 season but is off to its best start since going 11-3 to begin the 2002-2003 campaign. The Lady Dons open up league action tonight against John Glenn, then host Artesia on Monday before visiting defending league champion Norwalk on Wednesday.

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