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BOYS BASKETBALL: Carothers has career night as Cerritos posts first wire to wire victory against city rivals

Gahr High senior Ryan Young takes one of his two first half shots against Cerritos High in last Friday night’s contest. Young scored a dozen points but the Gladiators fell to the Dons 74-60, the second straight season that Cerritos has defeated Gahr. Photo by Armando Vargas, HMG-LCCN contributing photographer.


By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

In a rivalry that has been clearly dominated by Gahr High over the past 10 seasons, the Cerritos High boys basketball team not only won its second straight annual tussle with the Gladiators last Friday night, but did so in an unconventional way. The visiting Dons scored the first six points of the game and never trailed as they knocked off Gahr 74-60.

In the past, these two city combatants have traded leads in their games together, but on this night, Cerritos led 40-18 at the half and Gahr was unable to score consecutive baskets until midway through the third quarter, after the Dons had built a game-high 27-point lead.

“We knew in the second half that they were going to make a run,” said Cerritos head coach Jonathan Watanabe. “There’s too much pride between the two schools to not keep fighting throughout the game. Just with our young group, it’s different. But we’re still learning. We have a long way to go; you haven’t anything yet.”

Cerritos was up 14-7 after the first quarter as junior Gavin Carothers scored six points and grabbed three rebounds. But he wasn’t done with what would be his best night in the first five games as a varsity member. Carothers added another five points, two rebounds and two assists in the second quarter. But it wasn’t just the scoring that was setting the tone in the first half.

The Cerritos defense was causing fits for the Gladiators (3-2 overall) in the first 16 minutes, who went scoreless for over two minutes on three different occasions and caused numerous turnovers throughout the half.

“I thought the first half was awesome,” Watanabe said. “In the second half, we kind of let up a little bit. So, we just have to keep putting four quarters together and keep getting better. That’s what it’s all about.”

“They told us to keep the intensity up and they wanted us to go faster because they told us they can’t keep up with us,” Carothers said.

Cerritos (3-2) shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and at one point, was true on six straight field goals in the second quarter. But towards the end of the third quarter, the Gladiators made things interesting. Back to back three-pointers from junior Jason Hardrict, his only points of the first half, made it 49-28. Then in a span of 69 seconds, Gahr got baskets from seniors Justin Stephens, Ryan Young and sophomore Moses Dollar, the last on a steal, and just like that it was 52-35. A three-point play from junior Ethan Woon left Gahr trailing by 16 points after three quarters.

“They battled; they could have easily folded at halftime,” Watanabe said of Gahr. “But they’re going to battle and that’s what we want. That’s why it’s a rivalry. You come out here and play and battle. It’s fun; that’s what it comes down to. You want to be tested, and our group needs to be. You have these tests right here to get better.”

The Cerritos lead dipped to a dozen points after a steal and basket from Hardrict with 3:49 left to play. But sophomore Alex Archer scored consecutive baskets, then senior Tim Huang scored three straight points to push the lead back to 20 points with 2:26 remaining in the contest.

Carothers led everyone with a career-high 21 points, four points better than his last outing against Diamond Ranch High on Nov. 24. He also pulled down 10 rebounds along with three assists and two steals.

“He played awesome, not just scoring, but he was making great passes,” Watanabe said. “He was making the right decisions and he was doing a lot. He has all the potential in the world and he’s still at the beginning stages. He was way more to grown.”

“I just came out confident before warm-ups,” Carothers said. “I was just working on myself, getting my mind right and just came out quick.”

Senior Aditya Suresh quietly added 11 points along with five rebounds and three steals while Archer chipped in with 10 points and eight rebounds. Junior Jagger Uy would also have nine boards as the Dons defeated Capistrano Valley High 39-37 this past Monday in pool play action of the prestigious North Orange Country Championships. The Dons will also play La Habra High and Esperanza High in pool play action before moving into the playoffs tonight.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Carothers said of his first varsity game against Gahr. “I like the intensity out there and I like the crowd; the crowd is a bit part of it.”

Stephens scored 17 points and Young added 12 points as the Gladiators knocked off Montebello High 67-57 this past Monday in first round action of the El Rancho Blue Pride Classic. That tournament runs through Saturday. Gahr will then compete in the Gahr/St. John Bosco Classic next week.