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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION II-A GIRLS BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS: Cerritos comes up short against fourth-ranked Agoura, falls in second round again

By Loren Kopff

AGOURA-For the second time in 16 days, the Cerritos High girls basketball team had a game of great importance decided by a controversial traveling call in the final seconds. The first time it happened, the Lady Dons were on the short end of a 51-50 loss at Mayfair High with the Suburban League championship on the line.

The second time, and with more at stake, occurred in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division II-A second round game with Cerritos losing to fourth ranked Agoura High 52-50 last Saturday night. With 14.7 seconds left in the game, head coach Marcus Chinen called a timeout to design what he hoped would be the play that sends the Lady Dons into a quarterfinal matchup with Redlands East Valley High. But a turnover near midcourt gave the Chargers possession and Mia Moore iced the game with a free throw with 2.3 seconds left. A desperation three-pointer from senior Tatiana Fominyam at the buzzer clanked off of the glass.

“Everything ran the way we wanted it to run,” Chinen said. “We got the ball into our best ball handler’s hand. She looked for a shot and it wasn’t there. She jabbed and when she put the ball down and she started going, I thought she was going to come across and run a secondary play that we’re supposed to run. Unfortunately, [the referees] called that travelling and right there is the game pretty much.”

This contest couldn’t have been any tighter with 21 lead changes and no lead greater than six points. In the opening quarter alone, there were nine lead changes with the largest lead coming at 11-8 after a basket from junior Cailey Vitug. The Chargers then went on a 12-4 to lead 20-15, their largest lead of the game, with 5:09 left in the first half.

Emily Cangelosi was a complete workhorse in the first half for the Marmonte League’s second place representative, scoring 14 of her team’s 26 points. She added six more in the third quarter and finished with a game-high 20 points. While she was held scoreless in the fourth quarter, it was Moore who did most of the damage with 11 of her 13 points in the stanza.

“I expected this to be a back and forth game,” Chinen said. “Looking at them and trying to scout them, we didn’t know what to expect from them. Some of the games that I saw, they had different girls that were scoring at a certain point. We knew that definitely [Cangelosi] was going to be the one that we had to stop. She got in foul trouble and that helped us out a little bit. But with good teams like that, someone else will step up and that’s what happened.”

Agoura led 26-25 at the half but the Lady Dons had a one-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter, thanks to a pair of three-pointers from junior Teresa Torres and five points from Vitug. Cerritos then took its largest lead of the game at 48-42 when junior Ifeoma Okoli capped off a 10-5 run with her last basket. But the Lady Dons, who finished in second place in the Suburban League, went scoreless over the final 1:24 and took only two shots from the field.

“It’s hard,” Chinen said. “[We’re] right there again, second year in a row. It was one of their girls who had two points in the first quarter and then she hit 11 points in the fourth quarter. She went hot for them and that was the difference in the game.”

Vitug led Cerritos (17-11) with 14 points while Fominyam and Torres each had nine points and Okoli and sophomore Tracy Nakamura each adding eight points. Fominyam, one of eight seniors, led all players with 13 rebounds and had four assists and a pair of steals. She ended up scoring 290 points, second on the team behind Okoli’s 345 points.

“She did everything that we asked for,” Chinen said. “She doesn’t have to put up the big numbers. But she does everything else. I think she played a great game. And again, you can’t blame things but she’s been under the weather for a little bit, and Ifeoma too. Having those two under the weather could have made a little difference. But again, it was a hard fought game.”

Despite losing in the second round for the fifth time since 2008, Chinen is already looking forward to the 2016-2017 season with three starters returning plus five others.

“Last year we fall short and this year we fell short again,” Chinen said. “Next year, we’re looking forward to pushing ourselves to the finals. Our goal every year, from now on, will always be to win the league title and go as far as you can in the playoffs.”