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SUBURBAN LEAGUE BASKETBALL: Cerritos hoopsters looking strong at midway point in league, sweep John Glenn


By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


The first round of Suburban League action ended right where the Cerritos High girls basketball team wanted to be and just about where the boys hoped they would be. Now, a furious push for what both hope is a league championship in their final year as Suburban League members lies ahead for them over the next six games.

The boys went on an 11-0 run in the first quarter and never looked back in dismantling John Glenn High 77-45 last Friday night on the road. The Dons began this week at 15-5 overall, 5-1 in league and ranked 11th in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 3AA poll.

“I like how we’re playing,” said Cerritos co-head coach Jonathan Watanabe. “We’re winning with our defense; we’re sharing the ball. We could still get better with some things and that’s what we’re focusing on doing. But I do like how our team is playing as a whole.”

Although the host Eagles have been a surprise early in the season, they were no match for the Dons, who continue to get great team help from top to bottom. Senior Vincent Biscoe scored eight first quarter points and had three rebounds and a pair of steals while senior Destin Flucas added five points in the quarter as Cerritos led 23-6 after the first eight minutes.

The Eagles (5-13, 1-4) scored points on consecutive possessions just twice in the first half, the first coming when junior Gerardo Vargas hit a pair of free throws followed by a three-pointer from senior Peter Punsalan. But Cerritos went on another long scoring spree, this one 15-0 over two and a half minutes to really put the game away.

Cerritos led 46-17 at the half and scored another 25 points in the third stanza. Still, Watanabe wasn’t about to let up, knowing that Glenn, like any other team, can mount a comeback to at least make things interesting.

Sophomore Ethan Reyes came off the bench to post a career-high 15 points while Flucas scored a dozen points and Biscoe another 10. Flucas and senior Justin Moon each had three steals and Moon also had half a dozen assists. Glenn was led by Punsalan (19 points) and sophomore Hatem Alawad (nine points). The win was the 13th in a row over Glenn.

“It’s always hard just to take it one game at a time and try to focus,” Watanabe said. “We try to let the guys know that each game is just as important as the next one. But to get a high school kid to understand that is difficult. We have a lot of good teams to get through before we get [to Mayfair]. Our goal is to make that last game matter.”

Cerritos hosted Bellflower High this past Wednesday and will visit Artesia High tonight before coming back home to face La Mirada High on Wednesday. The lone league loss was to first place Mayfair High on Jan. 12, a 67-62 defeat. The rematch is on Feb. 8, the last day of the regular season and the last Suburban League contest for the Dons.

“Regardless of what you did in the first round, it doesn’t do anything to the second round games,” Watanabe said. “We have an older group and I think they do understand that the first round is completely irrelevant to the second round. That’s the main thing.”

Prior to the boys game, it wasn’t that easy for the girls, who led just 9-4 after the opening quarter and scored 18 points by halftime. But the Lady Dons poured it on in the third quarter and went on to crush the Lady Eagles 54-24.

Cerritos shot just six of 28 shots from the field in the first half and the slow start can be attributed to the players rushing their shots, according to Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen. While the shooting may have struggles in the first half, the Cerritos defense was limiting Glenn to just 11 field goals in the half.

The Lady Dons, ranked fourth in Division 3A, began the second half on a 16-0 run to lead 34-9 with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter. Junior Lindsay Fujihiro scored seven of her game-high 15 points in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, what began as an unexpected great start to the season by Glenn, has turned into a struggle to stay alive for an automatic playoff berth. The Lady Eagles went 3-22 last season but began this season with six wins in their first 10 contests. Now, Glenn sits at 11-11, 2-4 as the week began, but were ranked 14th in Division 5AAA. Senior Dalilah Mendoza led Glenn with nine points and four steals while nine other players scored for Cerritos, none getting more than seven points.

The Lady Dons improved to 16-4 and remained undefeated in league action as they too hosted Bellflower this past Wednesday and will travel to Artesia tonight before entertaining La Mirada on Wednesday.

“At the start of the season, we had no idea what to expect and we knew it would be a challenge to find team chemistry,” Chinen said. “The girls worked hard to be where they’re at now and have responded well throughout the season.”

While Mayfair may be the target and the only team that could spoil Cerritos’ bid to win league, Chinen said that any team in the Suburban League could pose a problem for his team.

“This season, we’ve told our girls, ‘do not take any team lightly and remember that every game will be different’,” he said.

Both Glenn teams lost to Mayfair this past Monday and visited La Mirada this past Wednesday and will go to Norwalk High on Wednesday.