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605 LEAGUE GIRLS BASKETBALL : Vo nearly perfect as Cerritos grabs a piece of program’s 11thleague championship

The Cerritos High girls basketball team defeated Pioneer High 71-47 last Friday night to clinch a share of the 605 League title, then won it outright this past Tuesday with a 57-50 win over Oxford Academy. It’s the program’s fourth league title in the past six seasons and 11th overall.

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Last season, it was all about Oxford Academy in girls basketball as the 605 League was introduced for the first time. This season, it’s all about Cerritos High, which clinched at least a share of the league crown with its second victory over Pioneer High this season of over 20 points.

Behind a 21-point performance from senior Minh-Thy Vo, the Lady Dons breezed past the Titans 71-47 last Friday night on Senior Night to improve to 16-10 overall and 8-0 in league play at the time. It’s the fourth league title for the Cerritos girls program in the past six seasons and the 11thoverall.

“We really did this for the seniors,” said Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen. “The players are out there playing for each other; they’re playing for the seniors for the rest of the way out.”

The league title is even more special for Vo, who came on strong late in her sophomore season, then sat out her entire junior season because of a torn ACL in the spring of 2018. But against Pioneer, Vo posted a season-high in points scored and was four points away from tying a career high.

“Winning on senior night was a nice feeling because I know [the team] worked really hard to make it special for us,” Vo said. “So, winning that just capped off an already good night. I didn’t play last year, so yeah, I was kind of nervous coming in because usually I’m not really that consistent. Doing well tonight was a good accomplishment for me, and just being able to help my team.”
Cerritos was rarely tested, scoring seven straight points midway through the first quarter to go up 12-4. The Lady Dons held a 22-10 advantage after the first quarter and even though that lead had expanded to 20 points by halftime, it still wasn’t the crisp, clean game that Chinen had hoped for. Still, the Lady Dons stole the ball 17 times in the first half and was just under 50 percent shooting from the field. But even with a 26-point lead early in the third quarter, the Titans reeled off six straight before Cerritos went on a 13-6 run over the final 2:18 of the stanza.

“That’s when we had to settle down and tell them, ‘we’re out there, run your stuff, be patient with it and the shots will come’,” Chinen said. “I don’t know if it’s one of those things where the girls wanted to do the best for the seniors, so everything just started going up fast. And the seniors wanted to do the best for the younger ones, so everything started going up fast.”

All 13 players got into the action one way or another and attempted at least one shot from the field. Vo was seven of eight from the field as well as from the free throw line with six rebounds and five steals. Sophomore Jasmine Uy added 15 points while senior Alyson Chang pitched in with 11 points, six rebounds and four steals. As a team, the Lady Dons had 34 rebounds and 23 steals.

“I think I did pretty well tonight compared to my other nights just because it was senior night and I had to step up as a senior,” Vo said. “I definitely wanted to try to do better just for my team and also because my parents came.”

“I thought she did great,” Chinen said of Uy. “I think tonight was a night where she needed to have a great night and that will carry her into the rest of season, the next two games, and in the playoffs because we’re really going to need her. She’s been a spark for us off the bench, but if we can get her to spark right away as a starter, that’s even better.

“By being so young, hopefully these seniors are molding her and guiding her into that player where she can be the go-to girl the next two years along with [sophomore] Amara [Hizon] and a couple of the other sophomores,” Chinen later said. “Hopefully, our future will be bright with those two.”

Cerritos, which went 19-11 overall last season, 7-3 in league, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section playoffs, defeated Oxford Academy 57-50 this past Tuesday to win the league outright. The Lady Dons visited Whitney High on Feb. 6 to close out the regular season. They previously beat Oxford Academy 61-44 on Jan. 17 and Whitney 56-45 five days later and all their league wins have come by at least 11 points. Cerritos is also vying to go wire to wire in league action for the second time in three seasons.

“That’s an amazing feeling because I know we worked really hard for it, and especially the seniors have put a lot of their effort and heart into that,” Vo said. “Knowing that the worst we could do is share a league title is good. But we’ve definitely worked harder [and] that’s not enough. We definitely want that league title for ourselves.”

“I think that’s great; I think that’s great for the school,” Chinen said. “We keep telling the seniors every year when we go through our preseason talk, when you keep one of those titles up there [on the banner], it will be up there forever. Now, if we happen to put a title up on the other side of the wall, that will be up there forever too. But then it will also put you in school history.”