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SUBURBAN LEAGUE GIRLS BASKETBALL: Cerritos gets rare season sweep over Mayfair to complete first undefeated league campaign

The Cerritos High girls basketball team defeated Mayfair High 56-46 last Thursday to win the Suburban League title in its final season as a member of that league. The Lady Dons also went undefeated in league for the first time since the 1997-1998 season.


By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

LAKEWOOD-People can no longer doubt the Cerritos High girls basketball team for the 2017-2018 season. The Lady Dons came, they saw, and they conquered their six league opponents not once, but twice and for the first time since the 1997-1998 season, went unblemished in league competition.

The Lady Dons kept Mayfair High at bay for virtually the entire game and made sure that the Suburban League crown would be all to themselves as they held off the pesky Monsoons 56-46 last Thursday at Mayfair. Cerritos, ranked fifth in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division 3A poll, ended the regular season at 22-4 overall, winners of 15 straight games and all 12 in league action.

“It’s really exciting,” said Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen, who was nearly speechless. “It’s exciting for myself; it’s exciting for the girls. Without their hard work throughout the season…I don’t know if they had a mission or if it was something in the back of their mind, but a lot of people kind of doubted this team.”

“Going out undefeated was the goal this year because a lot of people thought we weren’t going to go undefeated,” said senior Tracey Nakamura.

Fifteen seconds into the contest, Sarah Clausen scored to give Mayfair its only lead of the game. After that, Cerritos had to endure poor shooting from the field and from the free throw line as well as defend against Clausen, Ayah League and Briauna Thompson, the top threats all season for the defending two-time league titlists.

Cerritos led 9-7 after the first quarter, then scored the first seven points of the second quarter en route to a dominating second eight minutes of the game. Cerritos outscored Mayfair 15-8 in the stanza despite shooting three of 14 from the field. Mayfair’s only baskets came in succession on two occasions, the first within 29 seconds of each other making it 16-11, and the second in the final 16.3 seconds of the half. Meanwhile, only five players had scored for Cerritos in the first half, led by sophomore Minh-Thy Vo (seven points) and Nakamura (six points).

“I believe the girls came out looking to prove everyone out there that they’re able to hang with Mayfair throughout the whole game and/or lead the entire game,” Chinen said. “We wanted to go quarter by quarter and as long as we beat them quarter by quarter, we knew we were going to come out on top.”

Cerritos went up 28-17 less than a minute into the second half before the Monsoons had their biggest, and only major charge of the game. Clausen scored five of her team-high 11 points as part of an 11-0 run that tied the game with 3:42 left in the stanza. Chinen had called a timeout with the score 28-26 bit whatever he said seemed to reenergize the Lady Dons because they responded by going on a 9-0 run and never looked back. Five different players scored in that run, a common theme all season with everyone getting into the action one way or another in virtually every game.

“Basically, I told the girls they needed to calm down, stop rushing and play our game,” Chinen said. “I think we were rushing a lot in that little span right there because they started seeing them chipping away at the lead and catching up to us.”

The Monsoons tried to stay within a possession or two in the middle portion of the fourth quarter, trailing 42-36 after a three-pointer from Thompson with 4:34 left in the game and 44-41 following a trifecta from Brianna Portillo with 3:05 remaining. But Cerritos held on to its lead and put the game away with four straight free throws from junior Alyxe Tamaki. The Lady Dons were still able to win by 10 points despite missing 20 free throws in 44 attempts, something uncommon by any Cerritos team.

“Shooting that many free throws and missing that many free throws, yes, it’s in the back of their minds,” Chinen said. “I think seeing their teammates missing the free throws kind of affects the individual going to the line. But yes, it was our defense. We tried to throw a few things at them, which we did. We’re usually a man team; we threw some zones out there and we saw that the zones were working. The majority of the second half we kind of went to the zone.”

Tamaki led Cerritos with 12 points while Vo added another 11. But the story of the game was the job put in from sophomore Kamsi Okere, who came off the bench to score seven points, grab 21 rebounds, 11 on the offensive end, and have three steals.

“She was really nervous during the day and I told her, ‘whatever you can give us, we’ll take’,” Chinen said. “We did tell out team through the whole week that it’s going to be based upon who has the least turnovers and who has the most rebounds and who can control the boards. Kamsi is huge for us; 21 rebounds…I wasn’t aware of that, but that’s huge for us.”

In addition, the Lady Dons defense held Thompson to a mere nine points and League to nothing in three attempts. Chinen said the key was not letting Thompson get second shot opportunities as was the case in the first meeting, which Cerritos won 61-48 on Jan. 12.

“We really stressed that tonight’s the night and we were trying to encourage everybody,” said senior Kalea Trias. “We walked in with a bunch of balloons; one of the moms gave that to us during school with an encouraging message [on the balloon].”

Cerritos hosted Eisenhower High, an at-large representative from the Citrus Belt League, on Feb. 15 in a Division 3A first round game. A win would set up a matchup against either Hemet High or Shadow Hills High in the second round on Saturday.