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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

Cerritos High girls basketball head coach Marcus Chinen couldn’t think of one word right off the bat to describe the 22-4 regular season campaign his team just had, which included a 12-0 mark in the Suburban League. And now, the program leaves the Suburban League the same way it entered the circuit in the 1998-1999 season-league champions.

“It was these girls that actually did it and if it’s their dream season, then it’s their dream season,” he said. “Because they came out working hard. They’ve had people say, ‘oh, you may not be that good next year’ or ‘you probably won’t win league because you lost X amount of players or whatnot’. I think in the back of their minds, they felt that it wasn’t going to happen. By going 12-0, I think it’s really, really, really made them feel that they’ve accomplished a lot this season.”

The Lady Dons left the Mission Valley League following the 1997-1998 season as undefeated league champions and made their presence known early with back to back shared Suburban League titles. Since then, Cerritos had won three league crowns before this season, going 11-1 each time and sharing it with Mayfair High last season. Now, Cerritos embarks on the new 605 League next season while Mayfair stays in the Suburban League.

During the past 20 seasons, the Lady Dons went 179-61 in league action and finished below third place only once. They had a winning mark against every league team except Mayfair, which won 22 of 40 games against Cerritos. However, since 2014, Cerritos had six league losses, all to Mayfair and by an average of 3.3 points a game.

“Mayfair is athletic,” Chinen said. “They have some really good players; they bring in good players almost every single year. They’re coached well and I think when they look at it, they don’t want to lose to teams they’re not supposed to lose to. There’s something about Mayfair that brings out the best in us and we bring out the best in them. I think we bring out the best in each other.”

Chinen said he would like to play Mayfair in a single game in the future. But back to this season, which is one of the finest Cerritos has ever seen. Of the four losses, three came by eight points or less and the other one was by 11 points to North Torrance High, coached by former Cerritos standout Lauren Kamiyama. All three of single-digit losses came in the opening game of the Torrance, Chino and Dan Wiley/Larry Doyle Tournaments. The Lady Dons are also currently on a 15-game winning streak. Chinen believes the team must have some losses to learn and having those four losses really helped the team.

But even more remarkable is the fact that this has been a complete team effort instead of a standout or two or three. Fifteen to 16 players have seen action in every game and the team’s leading scorer is a sophomore, Minh-Thy Vo, who wasn’t a starter until the second half of league action. The team has four seniors, three of whom are starters, which means the Lady Dons are primed for another great season or two, or three moving forward in the new league.

“Every single year that I’ve been here, we’ve lost two or three key players,” Chinen said. “This year was pretty much my team. These are the girls I started with when they were freshmen. I believe we had eight or nine that started with us and only four survived going through the program.”

During its time in the Suburban League, Cerritos has won at least 20 games five times, advanced to the quarterfinals twice and the semifinals once. This season is set up for another deep run as the Lady Dons, ranked fifth in Division 3A, hosted Eisenhower High on Feb. 15 in a first round game and will host 12th ranked Hemet High or travel to Shadow Hills High on Saturday. Cerritos could see fourth ranked Flintridge Prep High in the quarterfinals or even top-ranked Oxford Academy in the semifinals.

No matter what happens, Cerritos is ready for a new chapter in its new league next season and will cherish these final days as a Suburban League member.

“It’s kind of sad leaving the Suburban League, not seeing Mayfair, La Mirada, Norwalk and Bellflower,” Chinen said. “But I think by closing this chapter and opening a new one kind of gives us new life; something new to look forward to.”

“I think it has meant a lot,” he added. “I really believe the Suburban League really helps all the teams as far as going to the playoffs. That’s one of the key things. I know I’ve said this many times this year, people look at the Suburban League as not a very good league. But they can’t look at it that way. I think that we have very competitive teams in the league and I just wish that some of those people who keep saying that go and maybe now play a single game against those teams and see how they play.”