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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
HUNTINGTON BEACH-The Cerritos High girls basketball team could have used another minute or two in its game against Edison High last Thursday morning. The Lady Dons had almost erased a 19-point deficit to come within a basket late in the game.
But in the end, the Chargers had enough to hold on for a 44-40 win in the consolation championship game of the Larry Doyle/Dan Wiley Orange County Tournament of Champions inside Dave Mohs Gymnasium.
Cerritos never led in the first half, only tying the contest at 2-2 before falling behind 14-8 after the first quarter and 18-8 just 42 seconds into the second quarter. Both teams would have a hard time scoring in the second quarter, combining for 13 points as the Chargers led 23-12 at the break. It was then that Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen gave a stern talk to his squad.
“I told them to prove to us that in this game…we’ve been down in games and that’s it, we’re done,” Chinen said. “We never fought back or came close. And what I mean [by] come close is come close to the final score. Usually, when we’re down, we’re down. If we’re down by 19, we’ll get to within maybe 15 and then that’s it and that will be the end of the game. But this team here, we challenge them to see what we can do and fight back in it. We almost nearly got that.”
Back to back three-pointers from Shelby Schuesler and Andie Kristinat extended Edison’s lead to 31-12 early in the third quarter before Chinen called a timeout. And coming out of the timeout, his players responded.
Junior Allyson Hayakawa connected on a three-pointer to cut the deficit down to 16 points before the Chargers called a timeout with 2:18 left in the stanza. Then sophomore Lindsay Fujihiro hit consecutive perimeter baskets with senior Cailey Vitug getting the assist both times. It would be the only baskets Fujihiro would score but she is making a solid impact for her first year on the varsity team. She has scored in all but two games and has reached double digits four times.
“I think they’re trying to figure out and get the feel for the game, realizing what rotations they’re in,” Chinen said. “Lindsay, at one point, was starting for us early in the season. She tweaked her ankle a little bit, so she was out for awhile. We experimented a little bit with a couple of other players. Once she gets a feel for the game, she’ll shoot the ball.”
Senior Teresa Torres began the fourth quarter with five straight points to make it 36-31 and after Ryane Bradbury responded with four straight points, Cerritos reeled off seven straight points. The final basket of that rally was an inbound pass from sophomore Hannah Carroll to senior Ifeoma Okoli to bring the Lady Dons to within a basket at 40-38 with 1:52 left to play.
But Siena Ontiveros iced the game with a three-pointer from the right corner with 1:25 left in the game. Torres led the Lady Dons with a dozen points, which ties her season high, and had all five of her rebounds in the fourth quarter while Okoli added eight points and 13 rebounds. Vitug also chipped in with six rebounds. But Cerritos shot 25 percent from the field and was six of 26 from three-point land.
“I think it was a learning experience for the girls,” Chinen said of the tournament. “They have to realize that they can play with this type of competition. [Edison] is a very good team. They’re almost similar to us; they have one big girl in the middle [and] a few girls who can shoot the ball. But what they did early in the game that we didn’t is that they went after every single ball and they didn’t miss as many layups early as we did early.
“But this tournament is a good tournament,” he continued. “It’s a good tune-up for league. We’re excited; the girls are excited to play [teams] familiar to them. Sometimes these tournaments they have no idea who they’re going to come across.”
Cerritos, which is 5-8 overall, begins Suburban League action tonight at Artesia High before hosting Bellflower High on Monday and travelling to Mayfair High on Wednesday.
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