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Cerritos’ Movchan newest member of small 1,000-point club

Alyssa Movchan of Cerritos drives between a pair of John Glenn players on Jan. 16. Movchan became the latest Cerritos player to score over 1,000 points for her career including 344 points in the regular season as a senior.

Alyssa Movchan of Cerritos drives between a pair of John Glenn players on Jan. 16. Movchan became the latest Cerritos player to score over 1,000 points for her career including 344 points in the regular season as a senior.


By HMG-CN Sports Editor Loren Kopff

The Cerritos High girls basketball program has had a long history of putting freshmen on its varsity teams, developing them and keeping those players on varsity all four years. Since the 2000-2001 season, the Lady Dons have had at least one four-year varsity player every season except for the 2007-2008 campaign, in which its lone freshman lasted three seasons.

But none of the previous 11 four-year varsity players accomplished what Alyssa Movchan did on Dec. 23, 2014. With her team’s first basket against St. Mary’s Academy less than two minutes into the game, Movchan eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier. The last Lady Don to have scored over 1,000 points for her career was LaKiste Barkus, who played from 1996-2000. In her final three seasons alone, Barkus amassed 1,654 points. Just getting to 1,000 points for her high school career was one of several accomplishments that Movchan did not know about…until now.

“That’s another thing I really didn’t know and actually that’s really cool to hear that someone would keep track [of that] since we had to change coaches,” Movchan said. “I’m really shocked and I really couldn’t have done that without my teammates because they’re the ones who help me get going.”

Movchan started playing the sport when she was five years old and playing in the Asian League. She made an immediate impression on former head coach Holly Matchett and current head coach Marcus Chinen during the summer of 2011 and because of her work ethic and what the two coaches saw, it was obvious that Movchan was varsity material even before her first day of high school.

“What I can recall is I had to look at her as a leader,” Chinen said. “She was the one that stepped out. She was the one that led the team. Looking at her, she had great form as far as her shot. She was willing to drive to the basket. Right now, when you really figure it out, she can play the one and the two. That was the thing.”

He added that there were two other incoming freshmen, one of whom was Taylor Hirata, another four-year varsity player and best friend of Movchan. Chinen said that Hirata and Movchan were so good that they wouldn’t have lasted long on a lower level team.

“She’s like my best friend, so our chemistry is really good,” Hirata said. “I think it helps us on the court more because we know each other and we know how we play and we’ve been playing together since we were in fourth or fifth grade. We’re best friends on and off the court. We do everything together. We see each other 24/7 and we’re always at each other’s house.”

Movchan made her presence known immediately when she started the first game of her freshman season on Nov. 29, 2011 against Jurupa Valley, scoring 12 points. Four games later, she scored 22 points against Cypress and later poured in 23 points in a home game against Mayfair on Feb. 7, 2012. In all, she scored in 24 of 27 games and was second on the team averaging 8.6 points per game.

“People say that it really does seem like yesterday but I still remember all of those games that I started as a freshman,” Movchan said. “All of [the players] were welcoming to me and even my friend Taylor, because she was also a four-year varsity [player]. We just remembered that it was really hard for us because we were the young ones and we didn’t know much.

“I thought I would come off the bench for sure because I am a freshman and there was a lot of talent that year,” she recalled. “I was really honored to be starting with all of the seniors and juniors.”

That season, she was surrounded by standout players like Deshields Fajardo, Katey Kanamoto and Stacey Suzuki to name a few. In fact, it was Kanamoto’s older sister, Kristy, whom Movchan passed to be the school’s top scorer since 2000.

“I think it was my freshman-year work ethic,” Movchan said of her early success. “I wanted to impress all of the older ones and say that I can keep up with them because I really wanted to fit in and I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit in really well if I wasn’t as good as they were. Also, we had Deshields and she wasn’t really the shooter. She was the one who facilitated with the leader. So, for her to pass all the time made it easier for me to shoot the ball because everyone would double-team her. I miss her for sure.”

It would only get better from that point on. She began her sophomore season with a 24-point performance against Whittier Christian and posted a career-high 30 points at La Mirada on Jan. 25, 2013. Movchan reached double figures in scoring 16 times, scoring over 20 points six times and scored in 24 of 25 games. She also led the Lady Dons in scoring at 13.4 ppg.

Last season, Cerritos was a favorite to win the Suburban League but was swept by eventual league champion Mayfair. Still, Movchan and her team advanced to the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division II-A quarterfinals. When the season had ended, Movchan had scored in all but one game, reaching double figures 16 times including at least 20 points four times and leading the team in scoring at an 11.4 ppg clip.

“It was a pretty good season considering we did go that far in CIF,” Movchan said. “It’s in the past. We can’t change that we [weren’t] league champs. Mayfair came to play that year. We tried but we couldn’t fix the little things that we worked on in practice.”

All of her hard work paid off in big dividends this season when she was named a captain for the second time (she was a captain as a sophomore). Movchan recently ended the regular season averaging 13.8 points per game, her highest at Cerritos, and her 344 points as a senior is the most since Kristy Kanamoto scored 343 points during the 2009-2010 campaign.

“I think right now, if you look at an overall player, even if they get 800 points, 500 assists or steals, I think that’s a key thing as far as a guard,” Chinen said. “When you look at a post player, the post player can average 10 points a game or even have 1,000 points in their career. But then they have maybe 500 more in rebounds. That’s what you have to look at as far as an overall player.”

“I think it just shows all of her hard work and dedication,” Hirata said. “And I think she deserves to score over 1,000 points because she’s such a great player.”

The 5’2” point guard, who plays for the Orange County Rhythm club team, was constantly harassed on the court by her opponents, being knocked to the court on many occasions. Still, she missed only two games out of 104 the team played, and the second came on Feb. 4 against Artesia as she was nursing a sore arm she injured the previous game against Mayfair. The first game she missed came as a freshman when she had to go to the hospital.

Movchan, who is a 3.5 student in the classroom and also ran on the cross country and track and field teams, said she has accomplished pretty much all she can. But the one prized possession that every high school athlete seeks is a CIF championship. The road to getting that begins on Saturday when the Suburban League champions host Dos Pueblos for the second straight season in a Division II-A first round game.

“I think so because starting as a freshman, I wanted to accomplish being captain,” Movchan said of doing all she could. “That was a big thing. I thought getting MVP for the school was a big thing. I always wanted [to be] league champs. I saw our banners and saw that 2008 was the last one.”

And the icing on the cake would be to win that coveted championship. Cerritos has gone as far as the semifinals three times in school history.

“Oh my gosh, we talk about that during practice,” Movchan said. “That’s one of the things that gets us going. If we’re having a bad practice, then we can say, ‘you know, we can do it if we keep practicing’. That would be a big thing; to have a [CIF championship] banner up there too. We could make history.”

“It was great to coach not only her, but Taylor also,” Chinen said. “Basically, we had to go back and break some bad habits that they had. They wanted to press super high and sometimes on taller teams, you can’t do that. They throw over the top and it’s gone. So we had to tell them to be patient.”

Movchan has received letters from several NCAA Division III schools on the East Coast but doesn’t want to go that far. Still, no matter what the future has in store for Movchan, she has already solidified herself as one of the best in school history. If Cerritos gets to the championship game, she could pass Sherilyn Frazier’s point total of 1,312, which she accomplished from 1992-1996.

“If I didn’t have the sports, I would probably be at home with my family, living the life and just going to school,” Movchan said. “If I’m not playing basketball during high school season, then I have my club during the fall and spring. I always want to stay busy with sports.”

As far as the next member of the 1,000-point club, Chinen said he would like to work on getting a post player to come in and score 1,000 points. He says that accomplishment would be greater than a guard scoring 1,000 points.

“I think as a program, you have to have maybe one or two younger ones on [varsity] so that way they can lead and they know what’s going on,” Chinen said. “Maybe that might change. Maybe it would just be a sophomore that can actually step in and guide. But having one freshman, possibly two, is a good thing for the program so they know what to expect for the next four years, and they can help the younger ones that are coming into the program.”

Email Loren: [email protected]