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SUBURBAN LEAGUE BASKETBALL: Cerritos basketball squads slam Artesia, continue to score in bunches

By Loren Kopff

When Cerritos joined the Suburban League to begin the 1998-1999 season, the boys basketball squad was treated rudely by then-powerhouse Artesia. The Dons had lost 18 straight games to the Pioneers by an average of 36.4 points.
Since then, the Dons have won nine of their past 13 encounters with Artesia including a 76-46 rout this past Monday night in the widest margin of victory ever over the Pioneers. Cerritos never trailed and in fact, the only time the game was even came in the second quarter when both teams each scored 20 points.
“We just played well tonight,” said Cerritos head coach Jonathan Watanabe. “We defended and when we defend, we have a chance. We just have to keep playing defense and everything else comes from that. We’re still missing a ton of stuff. There are still lots of holes in our defense. But we’re getting better. We’re getting closer to where we want to be.”
The eight previous victories over Artesia had ranged anywhere from two points to 22 points. But on this night, Cerritos was in cruise control from start to finish. The Dons scored the first seven points of the game and bolted out to a 16-6 lead six minutes into the contest. Sophomore Even Leonard scored 10 points in the opening quarter while junior Henry Buycks added seven more.
Artesia (12-4 overall, 1-2 in league) attempted only seven shots from the field in the opening quarter and nine in the second quarter as it was still having a hard time penetrating the Dons defense.
“We just came focused,” Watanabe said. “That’s been the key to this group; can we maintain our focus for a complete game from beginning to end? We’ve had stretches where we didn’t come out and we’ve had stretches where we didn’t finish. But that’s what you get with a young team.”
It wasn’t until late in the first half that the Pioneers scored consecutive points for the first time and made their only serious threat in the game. Artesia reeled off 12 consecutive points and trailed 36-29 with 1:03 left in the first half. But Buycks ended the half with a three-pointer and a two-point basket and the visitors wouldn’t get any closer.
Although it trailed the entire first half, Artesia made the most of its attempted shots from the field, connecting on 11 of 16 from the field. Junior Akil Williams was four of seven with four three-pointers and senior Jon Campbell was perfect on his four attempts for eight points. Both of them would be held scoreless in the second half. In addition, the Pioneers grabbed just six rebounds before halftime, which was a shock to Watanabe.
“I didn’t even know that,” Watanabe said. “That’s great. I know we did a pretty good job but that’s where they live. Last year they pounded us here on the glass. I watched that tape and I even had the kids watch it where they beat us by 20.”
Any chances of Artesia getting back in the contests were quickly dismissed as the Dons went on a 10-0 run in the third quarter to go up 53-33 with 1:59 left in the stanza. The fourth quarter was relegated to the bench players for both teams as all 10 starters combined for two shots, two rebounds and no points. Leonard led everyone with 24 points and connected on four perimeter shots while Buycks added 14 points. For Leonard, it was his second straight game of at least 20 points.
“Everyone did their job,” Watanabe said. “We played them how we wanted to and we said if they were going to hit shots, it was going to be some guys hitting shots and then having us adjust in the second half. I thought we did a pretty good job of doing that as well.”
Artesia will host Norwalk tonight, then play a nonleague contest against Brea Olinda on Monday before entertaining John Glenn on Wednesday. Cerritos, which opened up its league slate last Friday night with a convincing 70-47 home win against John Glenn, edged Norwalk 61-58 in double overtime this past Wednesday night, and will visit league favorite Mayfair tonight and travel to Bellflower on Wednesday night. Leonard posted a game-high 26 points against Norwalk and the game wasn’t sealed until junior Andrew Bui came up with a loose ball steal with two seconds remaining. Cerritos improved to 10-7 overall and 3-0 in league.
“That’s what’s nice, that’s what you want,” Watanabe said to the beginning of league play. “You don’t want to come into a game [not prepared] to play. You want to get better and you only get better by having to prepare and step up to the challenge. Our guys have done a great job because earlier this year, we didn’t play very consistent. So, we’ll see if we can string a few more of these together.”
Prior to the boys game, the Cerritos girls basketball team had probably its best defensive output in school history, slamming Artesia 62-4. The Lady Dons bolted out to a 12-0 lead and ended the game on a 28-0 run. The Pioneers didn’t score in the second half and turned the ball over 21 times in the opening quarter and 38 for the game. Cerritos senior Tori Mura led everyone with 11 points while senior Lauren Rhea and sophomore Tatiana Fominyam each added 10 points. The four points scored by Artesia sets a Suburban League record for fewest points in a game.
This past Wednesday night, the Lady Dons (12-3 overall, 3-0 in league) led Norwalk from beginning to end and finished with a 49-35 victory, snapping a six-game losing streak to the Lady Lancers. Fominyam came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points, grab nine rebounds and have four steals while junior Alyssa Movchan added 11 points.