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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lack of second half shooting leaves Cerritos short against North Torrance

By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

The Cerritos High girls basketball team had not played in over a week when it welcomed North Torrance High last Saturday night. The Lady Dons had gone 3-1 in their first two tournaments to begin the season and were looking for a non-league win against the Saxons, who are coached by former Cerritos standout Lauren Kamiyama.

But the Lady Dons were unable to attempt many shots in the second half, which didn’t give them more chances to score. The low number in attempts showed in a 56-50 loss that sent Cerritos to a 6-3 mark. Cerritos attempted 43 shots in the game but was eight of 19 in the second half.

“We want to get more shots off and I think what we did stress to them was a quality shot,” said Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen. “So, I don’t know if the players got confused as far as, ‘I want to make sure I get a good look’ versus ‘hey, if I can try to shoot over somebody’. I don’t think we shot over anyone. Most of our shots were wide open.”

Cerritos led for most of the first quarter until the Saxons closed out the final 3:38 on an 8-2 run. North Torrance would increase its lead to five points in the opening minutes of the second quarter and had a 24-20 advantage before the Lady Dons made a surge towards halftime. With 2:36 remaining in the half, senior Alyxe Tamaki tied the game with her second basket in less than two minutes. Then with 26.4 seconds remaining in the half, freshman Amara Hizon tied the game at 28-28. That would mark the last time North Torrance would not trail in the game as it got a three-pointer from Kacie Takata just before the buzzer sounded, then opened the third quarter on a 13-6 run to pull away.

Throughout most of the game, Cerritos struggled with converting on its attempts right under the basket. Although the Lady Dons ended the night shooting 40 percent from the field, that number easily could have higher.

“I think we turned the ball over immediately and that kind of set something where it wasn’t on a positive note,” Chinen said of the third quarter. “They went hot in the third quarter and we didn’t convert on some of our stuff.”

No one scored in the fourth quarter until the 5:25 mark when freshman Halyne Buycks scored her lone basket of the half to make it 47-42. A three-pointer from Siera Mitsumi 10 seconds later gave the Saxons that extra cushion. But with just under four minutes remaining in the game, senior Iris Lee took a pass from Tamaki and drilled a three-pointer from the left wing. Then with 2:17 remaining, Tamaki hit a downtown shot off a pass from Hizon to make it a four-point contest. But the Lady Dons were held scoreless over the final 1:30.

“What we told them was they needed to get on the ground for everything,” Chinen said of Lee’s three-pointer. “We needed to match their intensity and match their scrappiness versus just being very passive, which I think in the few games prior to this, we were a little passive.”

Buycks and Tamaki each scored 10 points while junior Kamsi Okere added eight points off the bench. Buycks also had nine rebounds while Okere added eight boards. Cerritos has begun the season on a solid start despite not having the services of junior Minh-Thy Vo, last season’s Suburban League Player of the Year. Vo, who is also a high jumper and hurdler for the track and field team in the spring season, tore her right ACL last spring, but has had previous damage to her knee. Chinen said she is on track to return for the summer season and eventually next winter.

“I think 6-3 is somewhere good to start,” Chinen said. “We told the girls from the very beginning no team is going to go out there and just be perfect. We’re going win some, we’re going to lose some. And if we lose some, we have to learn from them. This game, in particular, I think we learned a lot.”

Cerritos will face Oak Hills High on Wednesday in pool play action of the Best of the West Tournament at Ayala High. The next day, the Lady Dons will meet with Hillcrest High.