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605 LEAGUE BASKETBALL: Cerritos girls basketball upends Oxford Academy with stifling defensive performance

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

The 605 League is not even two years old, and already there seems to be a changing of the guard in girls basketball. After finishing in second place last season with a 7-3 mark in 605 League action, Cerritos High not only maintained first place but stayed undefeated through the first four games after dominating Oxford Academy last Friday night.

The Lady Dons reeled off 15 straight points over the final 3:53 of the second quarter, then outscored Patriots 12-5 in the first 4:24 of the second half on their way to a 61-44 victory. 

Entering this season, Oxford Academy had won 31 straight league contests before falling to Whitney High and Pioneer High this season to begin 605 League play. Cerritos also had defeated the Patriots 53-51 in the third place game of the Orange Tournament.

“That last game I think we were still getting used to each other, because we’re a fairly new team,” said Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen. “Besides [seniors] Minh-Thy [Vo] and maybe Alyssa [Sarigumba] and Alyson [Chang]…they didn’t start consistently last year, and we didn’t have Minh-Thy last year. This year, we have Minh-Thy back. Just by having her on the court gives the girls confidence.”

The first quarter was one of streaks as Oxford Academy scored the first two points before the host Lady Dons reeled off 10 straight points. The Patriots would end the quarter with five straight points and had a 19-17 with 4:08 left in the half before the tide shifted. Sarigumba tied the game with a pair of free throws and Cerritos took the lead for good seconds later after a basket from sophomore Amara Hizon.

Not only did the Patriots struggle to score in the last half of the second quarter, they didn’t get a chance to shoot much. They were six of 21 from the field in the first half while the Lady Dons were seven of 21 in the second quarter alone. In addition, Oxford Academy turned the ball over 16 times in the first half.

“We told the girls that they needed to really man up, body up, make sure they play solid ‘D’, and our defense was going to lead into our offense, which it did,” Chinen said. 

“The girls look at every single team no matter what on any given day can take a game from anybody,” he later said. “Every team, if you look at, in our league, has gotten a little bit better. And I think that the girls understand and realize that that they can’t fall asleep. Because if they do, then you never know who can go off.”

Cerritos kept the pressure on in the second half, leading by as many as 20 points after sophomore Madhuri Suresh scored her only basket of the game and would hold a lead of at least 16 points the rest of the way. Sophomore Jasmine Uy led Cerritos with 13 points off the bench while Sarigumba added 12 points and four rebounds and Hizon another 10 points and four boards. Chang pitched in with nine points and five rebounds and Vo had eight points and seven rebounds.

“That’s one of our key players and eventually, she may find herself in the starting lineup,” Chinen said. “Too bad that this league doesn’t have a sixth man award because of that’s the case, then I know definitely she would take that one.”

Even though the Lady Dons were 21 of 72 from the field, they helped themselves at the line by missing just six free throws in 22 attempts. In addition, the 44 points given up marked the 11thtime in 20 games (fourth in a row) in which Cerritos held its opponent to under 50 points.

“We’ve been scrambling; we’re a little bit faster than last year,” Chinen said. “We don’t have the firepower from the outside like last year. But we have some girls who can shoot, and if they’re on, they’re on. If not, then we have to rely on our defense to cause havoc out there.”

Cerritos would knock off Norwalk High 62-53 this past Monday afternoon behind 13 points from Sarigumba and 11 more from Uy. The Lady Dons would then end the first round of league action this past Wednesday night with a 56-45 win over Whitney High. Cerritos (13-9 overall, 5-0 in league) was paced by Vo’s 14 points off the bench and Uy’s eight points and eight rebounds. 

Following the game with Oxford Academy, the Cerritos boys never trailed, scoring the first eight points of the contest and building a huge 45-16 halftime lead. In the end, the Dons scored a season-high in points in an 80-36 victory, improving to 15-6 overall at the time and 4-0 in the 605 League. 

Senior Ethan Reyes led all players with 18 points while senior Jagger Uy had 14 points and junior Obinna Ene another 13 points with 12 rebounds. Cerritos would also fall to Laguna Beach High 59-48 this past Monday before rebounding to blast Whitney 75-27 this past Wednesday night, ending the first round of the loop 5-0. Seniors Luke Castrence and Eric Clark each scored nine points while Ene, and sophomores Jaden Jefferson and Danny Patton all pitched in with eight points. Junior Alexander Archer grabbed seven rebounds as the Dons had 41 boards to 15 for the Wildcats.

Both Cerritos teams will visit Artesia High tonight before hosting John Glenn High on Wednesday. In addition, Chinen’s squad will face Aliso Niguel High on Saturday afternoon.

“We still have to go game by game and not fall asleep on anyone, and we have to keep up the intensity in practices,” Chinen said. “Hopefully at the end of the season, we can come out on top.”