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605 LEAGUE BASKETBALL : Cerritos girls get early scare from John Glenn, rebounds to even league record

John Glenn High senior Kei’ana Hood attempts a shot over Cerritos High freshman Mailee Dizon in last Friday night’s 605 League basketball game. Hood scored seven points but it was Cerritos that posted a 45-31 victory. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.


May 5, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


The high school basketball season has been going for roughly a month for some teams and just a few weeks for others. Still, there are some teams that have struggled with either lack of experience or fewer players than what they are accustomed to.

The Cerritos High and John Glenn High girls basketball teams have experienced their own issues since their seasons have started. While Cerritos has had the luxury of 22 players because it doesn’t have lower level teams this season, only six players were on the varsity team last season. Glenn has even more issues with only half a dozen players on this season’s team a late start to the season.

The host Lady Dons were tested early in last Friday night’s 605 League contest before pulling away for a 45-31 victory that pushed their overall record to 2-4 at the time and leveled their league mark after four games.

“I would say we were just off to a slow start,” said Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen. “Glenn plays awfully hard; those girls are not going to quit. They had a lot of energy which we didn’t have. Again, there’s no excuses. We just didn’t come out with the intensity that Glenn did.”
The Lady Eagles scored the first seven points of the game before the defending 605 League champions tied the game when junior Jennifer Aguirre connected on a three-pointer, her only points of the game, with 3:13 left in the first quarter. When the opening stanza had ended, the Lady Dons were clinging to an 11-10 lead, which would be the closest the Lady Eagles (0-4 overall) would get the remainder of the game.

“It’s kind of the same in every game,” said Glenn head coach Ruben Guerrero. “They have a lot of energy; we only have six girls. It doesn’t take much for the third opponent, which is fatigue, to set in.”

Throughout the young season, Chinen has had to strategically find a way to utilize all the players on the big team and at times, it has paid off. Junior Madhuri Suresh, who has not been a starter thus far, came off the bench and scored eight of her team-high 10 points in the second quarter, including the first six to extend the lead to 17-12 nearly halfway in. Her final points of the game came with 2:52 left in the half and made it a 24-13 advantage.

Then there is freshman Onyeka Nwanze, who has scored in three of Cerritos’ first six games but was a dominant force in the third quarter when she had six rebounds and five of her seven points. In the previous game at Pioneer High, she scored 14 points and against Whitney High on Apr. 23, she scored her first 10 points of her high school career.

“I think she’s going to be a force to reckon with later down the line,” Chinen said of Nwanze. “We didn’t have her for the summer, which hurts. If we had her in the summer and the fall, I think she would be in shape and she would be ready to go. She’s still trying to get her feet underneath her. But she will help us out, hopefully by next week.

“As far as Madhuri Suresh, she’s one that gives us all kinds of energy, offensively and defensively,” he continued. “And I want to say defensively first because she does really well at breaking to the ball [and] stealing the ball. Sometimes we do have to slow her down a little bit because she gets ahead of herself. But with all the energy she has, I would say she was our sleeper this year and now she woke up.”

Through the second half, Glenn was trying to stay within considerable range and cut its deficit to nine points within the first two minutes when senior Cynthia Almanzar grabbed one of her 12 defensive rebounds and went down the court to score the first of her two third quarter baskets. With 5:39 left in the quarter, she scored off one of her five offensive board to make it a 29-20 affair. That would be the last time the Lady Eagles trailed by less than 10 points as the Lady Dons went on an 11-3 run to put the game away. Almanzar, one of four seniors who has been on varsity for three seasons, led everyone with 15 points.

“That’s the scary thing about these girls,” Guerrero said. “Even though there’s only six, against Whitney, against Oxford [Academy], the point differential was about the same. But again, the third opponent is fatigue. So, by the time we get to the fourth quarter, there’s really no gas left in the tank. I think that’s what it comes down to.

“She’s a very competitive kid,” Guerrero later said of Almanzar. “I think with the lack of a team, it creates a frustration for her. I think when she gets frustrated, and she knows that, it creates a different player that we actually need. But she’s still a whole lot of heart and a [has] whole lot of passion for the game and I probably wouldn’t change that for anything.”

Nine players scored for the Lady Dons, who edged Downey High 50-47 last Saturday and defeated Oxford Academy 52-50 this past Tuesday to end the first round of league play with a 3-2 record, two games behind front-running Pioneer and a game behind Whitney. Cerritos is scheduled to host Artesia High tonight before scheduled road games at Santa Margarita High on Saturday, Kennedy High on Monday and Whitney on Wednesday.

“It’s a very challenging season,” Chinen said. “We just want to see what the girls can do. It’s difficult because…we have about two levels there, when you really look at it between all the girls that we have there.”

Seniors Karina Flores and Kei’ana Hood each scored six points while junior Sara Mendoza added the other four points for Glenn, which is winless in four games and will only play the league schedule, which is 10 games. Its losses have ranged anywhere from nine points to 17 points.

“We only got into the gym five days before our first game,” Guerrero said. “We were stuck on the blacktop, which I didn’t like. So, we tried to do what we could with what we had. But the challenge of only having six girls, and roughly half of them are really out of shape…it’s frustrating to say the least.”

Following the game, the Cerritos boys scored the first 15 points of the game, then opened the second quarter on an 11-0 run and began the third and fourth quarters on 15-0 and 13-0 runs respectively as part of an 88-29 victory that left the Dons at 5-3 overall and undefeated in four league games. Senior Obinna Ene led everyone with 16 points and nine rebounds while senior Brian Lee came off the bench to add 12 points, all in the first half, and five rebounds. Senior Alexander Archer and junior Alex Reyes each added nine points with Archer also grabbing five rebounds and collecting three steals as Cerritos had no problems against Oxford Academy in a 62-17 victory this past Tuesday. The Dons are scheduled to host Artesia tonight before a scheduled road game at Whitney on Wednesday.

For Glenn, also winless in the five games it has played, junior Natanael Jacobo led the way with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists while juniors Richard Ramos and Joan Saldago each scored half a dozen points. The Eagles fell to Pioneer 71-18 last Saturday and Artesia 64-19 this past Tuesday and both Glenn teams are scheduled to visit Whitney tonight and Pioneer on Wednesday.

“We lack a lot of experience,” Guerrero said. “We have kids that don’t belong at the varsity level at all. Again, we only had five days before our first game trying to teach offense; trying to teach defense. If we had an abundance of returners, it probably would have been a little different. At one point, we didn’t look like we were going to have a team. Then we just started having a bunch of young guys showing up wanting to play. But again, they lack that experience that we need, especially competing against a team like Cerritos.”