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605 LEAGUE BASKETBALL – Different look in personnel headline Artesia, Cerritos basketball teams in league opener

April 22, 2021

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter


The 605 League basketball season opened this past Tuesday with the early marquee matchup from both the boys and girls being Cerritos High visiting Artesia High. There was no shortage of side stories from all four varsity teams, but one thing was clearly made at the end of the night-Cerritos is still the team to beat on both sides.

The Artesia boys gave the Dons all they could handle and came within a point with 51.5 seconds remaining. But a pair of free throws from Cerritos senior Alexander Archer with 12.1 second left in the game sealed the victory in a 50-47 affair. It was the 16th straight win for the Dons over the Pioneers and the three-point decision was the closest since a 47-46 win at Artesia in 2019. Prior to Cerritos’ dominance over Artesia, the Pioneers had won 18 straight meetings from 1999-2007 and since 2008, Cerritos has lost to Artesia four times.

“This Artesia team is a pretty good team,” said Cerritos co-head coach Kevin Enomoto. “They have some freshmen on their team right now. They’re going to be a team to deal with. They have some good guys coming back. I love their big kid, [freshman Zion Staples]. That guy can really play.”

“What killed us in the game was missed free throws,” said Artesia head coach Jeff Myles. “We missed [11] free throws and that’s kind of been our Achilles heel all season. So, that’s something we have to clean up in practice. We have to keep working on it.

“We’re a young team; we have two freshmen starting, a sophomore starting [and] a junior who has never played varsity before,” he continued. “Young teams are going to make mistakes and it’s kind of growing pains.”

Of the 18 players on Cerritos, 11 of them are varsity newcomers while the Pioneers graduated seven players from last year’s team but return only four seniors and one junior.

The Pioneers (3-3 overall) never led but tied the game early on consecutive baskets from Staples and junior Miles Jennings. The Dons responded by going on a 10-4 run that went 35 second into the second quarter. Artesia tried to get back into the game and when Jennings had two straight baskets later in the stanza, it was 21-20. But Archer hit a pair of free throws and senior Tylenn Meeks closed out the half with a bucket.

“I thought our guys did a good job of kind of sticking to the game plan” Enomoto said. “We had some guys pick up quick fouls early in the first half that kind of hurts us as far as…our depth isn’t what it used to be. We have a lot of guys who are kind of new to varsity. I thought our freshmen and sophomores did a good job stepping up today. That’s going to be the key this year; how we play when our guys are sitting out and taking breaks.”

The Dons (2-3) would expand their lead to eight points midway through the third period when Archer fed a pass to senior Obinna Ene who capped off a 7-4 run. But three different players combined to score six straight points for the Pioneers, who trialed 32-30 with 2:22 left in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, consecutive three-pointers from freshman Ron Banks and Jennings within a minute made it 39-38 with 6:27 left to play. But the Dons responded with a basket from Archer, a trifecta from senior Ryan Scammahorn and a steal and basket from Meeks. That’s when the Pioneers made their last attempt to take what would have been their first lead.

With 3:19 remaining in the game, senior Jonathan Nelson converted on a three-point play. After an Ene basket, Nelson and junior Jalen Casentiano scored to make it a 48-47 affair.

“I think that’s due to our seniors,” Enomoto said of holding off Artesia. “We have seniors this year who have been with us for the last three years now. That experience helps.”

“We’re a young team, but we’re also a resilient team,” Myles said. “Those guys; they fight. In the five games we’ve played this season [before tonight], we’ve been down in a couple of them and we fought back and won those games. Cerritos is a great team; they’ve won league [the past two years] and to be this close…there’s no moral victories but to have two freshmen and a sophomore, I kind of like where we’re heading and I’m looking forward to the rematch. Hopefully it’s as competitive as this one was.”

Ene and Archer scored 14 and 10 points respectively for the Dons while Scammahorn and sophomore Andrew Hartman each added eight points. For the Pioneers, Staples led all players with 17 points and Jennings pitched in with 11 points.

Prior to the game, it was a matchup between the reigning 605 League champions and the defending CIF-Southern Section Division 5-AA champions. But the anticipated matchup lost a bit of its punch as the hosts were missing their top three returning players. Without juniors Jordan Manning and Sydney McKee and sophomore Samerika Young, Artesia was unable to keep up with a Cerritos team that six returning players from last season’s team and the 2021 version has no seniors. The result was a 57-18 conquest that evened Cerritos’ mark to 1-1 while the Lady Pioneers dropped to 0-2.

“I think on that, it’s difficult to judge because they are a good team,” said Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen of Artesia. “They are the defending CIF [Division 5-AA] champs. It doesn’t matter what division they are in; they are the defending CIF champs and we won league last year. So, it’s going to be a good game the next time around, especially if they have the three main players coming back.”

Junior Esja Shriver, one of eight players who suited up for the Lady Pioneers scored the game’s first basket 32 seconds in. After that, Artesia wouldn’t score again until her free throw made it 6-3 with 4:44 left in the first quarter. The Lady Dons went on a 13-0 run to close out the quarter, then scored the first four points on the second quarter before junior Sha’mira Barnes drained a three-pointer. The 19-3 first quarter score was a surprise to Chinen, who knew Artesia was a different team without those three players.

“Yes, because we only [have played] one game and right now, we’re still trying to prepare for the rest of the season and I’m learning and seeing who can do what out there on the court,” Chinen said. “This year is going to sound like a big tryout for the future.”

“Obviously, we were making it more difficult for us to score,” said Artesia first-year head coach Ray Walker. “But the girls who played, played hard. We have a lot of newcomers who had an opportunity to play.”

Walker also praised his team for the spirit they had despite the lopsided affair. Cerritos would lead 34-9 at the half and outscored Artesia 14-3 in the third quarter before Shriver scored consecutive baskets to open the fourth quarter. She would lead Artesia with seven points while four other players added one basket apiece.

“They pressure well, too, but we have to get better,” Walker said. “It’s such an interesting year, especially having a new team and we just have the one level. We have 12 girls out on the court playing basketball, so we have a lot of work ahead.”

It’s a different story for the Lady Dons, who don’t have one senior, which is rare for the program, and have 20 girls on varsity for now, most of them are juniors. Junior Jasmine Uy, one of the six returning players, led Cerritos with 10 points while sophomore Francine Carrillo added eight points and freshman Lindsey Kobayashi pitched in with seven points as thirteen players scored at least one point.

“Not having one senior this year…I don’t think it helps us,” Chinen said. “But I think it makes the younger ones mature a little bit faster. The juniors right now are the ones who have to step up and mature, and I would say guide this team and lead them in the right direction. So, when they’re seniors next year, and then when they graduate, the younger ones will know what to do and what to expect out of the younger players that come in for them.”

“Apparently they have a very deep team, and they play pretty well; they’re aggressive,” Walker said.

Both Artesia teams will visit Oxford Academy tonight and Whitney High on Tuesday while both Cerritos teams travel to Whitney tonight and will go to Pioneer High on Tuesday. In addition, the Cerritos girls visit Peninsula High on Saturday night while the Artesia boys host Norwalk High on Wednesday.