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SUBURBAN LEAGUE BASKETBALL: Cerritos’ total team efforts means double trouble for Artesia in pair of routs



By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter


For one quarter, it seemed as if the Cerritos High boys basketball team would be in for a good battle with visiting Artesia High last Friday night. But the next two quarters were a different story as the Dons showcased the depth they have this season.

The Cerritos bench scored 40 points and co-head coach Jonathan Watanabe saw his team dominate on the boards as the Dons had no problems with the Pioneers in a 69-42 victory. Cerritos, which figures to challenge Mayfair High for the Suburban League title, improved to 12-4 overall and 2-0 in the circuit.

“If we defend and share the ball, we’ll be in a good place,” Watanabe said. “And we’re getting there. We can still be better, but that’s the goal; to continue to improve, especially in those two areas. Today, we were defending and sharing the ball. They were going box and one and we have a lot of weapons. So, I don’t think we have one guy. I think we have quite a few guys. It’s tough to stop us. It’s a team victory; that’s what it should be.”

Sharing the ball was an understatement as 15 of the 17 players took at least one shot from the field and 14 of them scored as well as had at least one rebound. The Dons owned the glass, collecting 37 rebounds to just 20 by the Pioneers, who fell to 11-5 overall, 1-1 in league.

“They played well, and we really didn’t play well today,” said Artesia head coach Ray Walker. “We would have had to play very well to compete with them because they’re very talented.”

There were four lead changes in the first quarter, which ended with Cerritos holding onto a 12-9 lead. The last basket, which was by senior Branden de Groot with 1.6 seconds left, was the beginning of an 8-0 run. He would add a pair of three-pointers in the first 47 seconds of the second quarter and led Cerritos with a career-high 14 points in the game, 10 coming in the first half.

If de Groot owned the opening minutes of the second quarter, then it was the Dorian Harris show towards the end of the stanza. The senior scored a pair of baskets within a 21 second span. After a steal and basket from de Groot, Harris capped off Cerritos’ first half scoring with a dunk with 42 seconds remaining to put the Dons up 34-16.

“The first quarter was okay,” Walker said. “We missed some lay-ups in the first quarter, missed some free throws in the first quarter. So, instead of being 12-9, we might have had a little better chance. So, we have to play well early. We didn’t play as well as we needed to.”

The Pioneers got to within 15 points inside the first minute of the second half before Cerritos expanded the lead to 24 points on successive three-pointers from seniors Vincent Biscoe, Destin Flucas and Harris. None of the Cerritos starters played in the fourth quarter but the bench still scored 19 points. Harris scored 11 points while Biscoe added nine points and three assists. Senior Jason Anigbo came off the bench to grab eight rebounds while senior Jyvontte Moore added another seven boards. Senior Byron Sur had four assists as the Dons, who are ranked 12th in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 3AA poll, are off to one of their better starts in recent history. Cerritos has not had fewer than 10 losses since becoming a member of the league and is a win shy of matching last season’s total.

“The record doesn’t matter,” Watanabe said. “We have 12 league games [in a season] and so now, we have two pieces of our puzzle [completed]. We have 10 more and our goal is just to focus on each day to try to get better.”

Artesia was led by junior Heder Gladden, who had 14 points and eight rebounds. Senior Roman Hernandez added another seven points as three starters combined for 26 points. The Pioneers had just five steals and shot 31 percent from the field. The 42 points scored were a season-low and they have been held to under 50 points five times, going 2-3 in those games.

“All of [their players] are better than what I thought,” Watanabe said. “The score is not indicative of what the result was. But those guys can all do even more than I thought they could do. They’re good players.”

Prior to the game, the Cerritos girls also displayed a complete team effort as all 15 players attempted at least one shot from the field with 10 of them scoring. The Lady Dons were uncontested, scoring the first six points of the game and running away with a 63-30 victory. In contrast, the Lady Pioneers suited up eight players with half of them scoring.

After a sluggish start to the game that saw a combined 17 turnovers, Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen saw his team dominate in nearly every category, outrebounding Artesia 34-20 and collecting 22 steals to just six by the visitors.

“Offensively and defensively, yes,” Chinen said. “I think in the first quarter, we had nine fouls. So, then they’re pretty much in double bonus the rest of the half, which will hurt any team if they have that happen that early. So, we had to really tighten up on defense.”

The Lady Dons had runs of 11-2 in the first quarter and 6-0 to begin the second quarter. While the starters scored 10 points in the first half, the same as the Lady Pioneers did, Cerritos sophomore Kamsi Okere scored seven points and had four rebounds in that time. She would end the game would finish the contest with eight points, five rebounds and three steals while junior Iris Lee led everyone with a career-high 12 points. Senior starter Kalea Trias added seven points and a dozen rebounds while bench players Alyson Chang and Minh-Thy Vo, both sophomores, each scored seven points. Senior starter Tracy Nakamura led everyone with four steals.

“I think that’s a little different from last year,” Chinen said. “Last year we relied on three seniors where this year, I think on any given night, someone can go hot for us. And that’s what we’re looking for; something that is spread out throughout the whole roster.

“We do have a deeper bench than I think we did last year, and we’ve noticed a few times where our bench has outscored our starters,” Chinen later added.

Cerritos also faced Marina High last Saturday and pulled away late in the first half to earn a 53-35 victory. The Lady Dons went on an 11-5 run over the final 4:25 of the first half, then put the game away with a 13-0 run in the third quarter. Senior Lindsay Fujihiro led the Lady Dons with 16 points while Lee added half a dozen points off the bench. Okere also had five boards and four steals as both Cerritos teams will entertain Mayfair tonight in a battle for first place. Cerritos will also be home to Norwalk High on Wednesday.

Artesia (8-6, 0-2), which has lost five of its last six games, was led by seniors Cassidy Valle-Marinas (11 points, five rebounds) and Jessica Tibayan (nine points, six rebounds). The two Artesia squads will host La Mirada High tonight and John Glenn High on Wednesday.