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SUBURBAN LEAGUE BASKETBALL: Two more sweeps for Cerritos basketball squads, end regular season at Mayfair

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


To say that the Cerritos High boys and girls basketball teams are heading into the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section playoffs with a lot of momentum would be an understatement. Both teams swept Norwalk High last Friday, then began this week with easy victories over John Glenn High to put themselves in the position they wanted from the beginning of the season-a showdown with league nemesis Mayfair High on the last day of the regular season.

The Cerritos Lady Dons already took care of half of their goals, claiming at least a share of the league title when they posted a 62-35 win over the Lady Eagles this past Tuesday to improve to 21-4 overall and 11-0 in the circuit. Before that, Cerritos shook off a slow start and outscored Norwalk 31-20 in the second half to defeat the Lady Lancers 60-44.

Cerritos was trailing 14-4 after the first quarter against Norwalk before putting together a pair of mini scoring sprees in the second quarter to take the lead for good. A 9-0 run in a 62-second span put the Lady Dons up 21-18. Then three straight baskets made it 27-21 with 2:33 left in the first half. In addition, the host Lady Lancers outrebounded Cerritos 14-6 in the first quarter.

“We weren’t playing our game defensively and our offense was out of sync,” said Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen of the first half. “In the last few games, we were slow on our defensive rotations. It’s almost like we needed to get the feel of the game and once we did, we were fine. Artesia, Glenn and Norwalk have athletic players who can cause problems for any team.”

“The first quarter was good,” said Norwalk head coach Ashley Baclaan. “I think we got looks that we wanted and hustled to our rebounds for opportunities.”

Cerritos began the second half on a 5-0 run to go up by 10 points and never looked back. The lead eventually got to 20 points on two different occasions in the fourth quarter, the first coming after senior Lindsay Fujihiro connected on her second three-pointer of the game. A dozen different players attempted at least a shot with sophomore Minh-Thy Vo leading everyone with 15 points while senior Tracey Nakamura added 12 points. In addition, Fujihiro had six rebounds and five of Cerritos’ 20 steals. Norwalk was led by seniors Angie Aldana (12 points, seven rebounds) and Fatima Gomez (eight points, eight rebounds).

“Norwalk’s guards played very well on both ends of the court and their post players were getting second chance opportunities,” Chinen said. “We have to do a better job containing the guards and boxing out on both ends of the court.”

“When Cerritos continued to put the pressure on, we just allowed our early turnovers to get the best of us [and we] dug ourselves in a hole,” Baclaan said.

This past Tuesday, Cerritos held Glenn to just five baskets in the first half and cruised to the big win over the Lady Eagles, giving the Lady Dons their sixth league championship since the 1998-1999 season. Of those six, only two have been outright and they can make it three with a win at Mayfair on Feb. 8.

On senior night, 12 of the 15 players on the team scored at least one basket with senior Kalea Trias and sophomore Alyson Chang each scoring 10 points. For Chang, it was a career-high. Cerritos had 17 steals with Nakamura and Trias each collecting four of them. Glenn received eight points each from seniors Karina Gomez and Dalilah Mendoza.

Should Cerritos, ranked fifth in Division 3A, defeat Mayfair, they will have the most wins since the 1998-1999 season. Either way, the Lady Dons will leave the Suburban League the same way they entered it, with at least a share of the league championship. Cerritos has also won at least 10 wins in league five straight seasons and have won at least 20 games for the second time in four seasons and the fifth time as a Suburban League member.

“The past and present players deserve all of the credit,” Chinen said. “Without the players, this small milestone wouldn’t be possible. We tell them what to do in practice; they practice hard and they’re the ones getting it done. This little team has played well all season and no matter what happens, I’ll be proud of this team’s 2017-2018 accomplishments. I want them to believe anything is possible and have fun the rest of the season.”

The Cerritos boys had a similar path to their 68-52 win over Norwalk, trailing in the first half before putting the game away in the third quarter. Despite Norwalk leading by as many as eight points in the first quarter, the first half featured seven lead changes. The Dons would lead by three points at the half, their largest lead in the game up to this point.

“I’ve been [saying] for the last two weeks we’ve been ready, we’ve been fighting, we’ve been digging and digging, and we were ready to do that again,” said Norwalk head coach Brent Campanelli. “I had no doubt that they were going to come out and play hard, especially with the girl’s senior night [being] a little bit emotional. We were ready to play.”

Then, Cerritos began to put it together, scoring the first six points of the second half and outscoring Norwalk 24-11 in the third quarter. Senior Dorian Harris was a thorn in Norwalk’s side in the stanza, scoring seven points on three of five shooting from the field and grabbing six of his game-high 11 rebounds. He finished with nine points while senior Jason Anigbo scored 13 first half points off the bench and finished with a game-high 17 points on seven of nine shooting from the field. Senior Jyvontte Moore added 13 points with four rebounds.

Sophomore Christopher Herrera led the Lancers with 12 points while Andrew Beeson added nine points off the bench as both Norwalk teams ended the regular season with wins over Bellflower High this past Tuesday. The boys won 58-41 to finish the regular season at 10-16 overall, 5-7 in the league while the girls survived a 64-58 contest to improve to 13-11, 7-5 and finished in third place in league while the boys will have to wait to see what happens in Artesia High’s road contest against La Mirada High on Feb. 8. An Artesia win locks up fourth place while a loss will mean both Artesia and Norwalk will finish in a tie for fourth place.

“I believe we need to learn to adjust in the moment better,” Baclaan said as her team will have a week to prepare for the playoffs. “When things get “rough”, we have to learn to keep our heads up and find the simple plays.”

The Cerritos boys team then showed no mercy against Glenn this past Tuesday, scoring 36 points in the first quarter and blowing out the Eagles 89-50 to improve to 19-6, 9-2. The 12th ranked team in Division 3AA saw 13 players score, led by senior Destin Flucas, who scored 14 first quarter points on all five of his shots taken and finished with 19 points. Anigbo added 11 points and six rebounds while sophomore Jagger Uy recorded a career-high 10 points. Glenn senior Peter Punsalan led everyone with 33 points, including four three-pointers and 15 free throws in 18 attempts.

While both Glenn teams wrapped up their non-playoff seasons against Bellflower on Feb. 8, Cerritos aims for its first Suburban League championship and can share that honor with Mayfair with a win against the Monsoons on Feb. 8.