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GIRLS BASKETBALL – Different league, same results for Cerritos as Dons slow down Norwalk

Norwalk High senior Makayla Moore (left) is heavily guarded by senior Amara Hizon of Cerritos High in last Saturday’s G.Y.M.R.A.T. Challenge game, hosted by Cerritos. Moore would score nine points and grab seven rebounds but it was Cerritos who captured a 50-34 victory. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.


December 22, 2021

By Loren Kopff• @LorenKopff on Twitter

The Cerritos High girls basketball team may no longer be league rivals with Norwalk High, but some things still haven’t changed. Despite Norwalk walking into the Cerritos gymnasium last Saturday afternoon for a non-league tilt, boasting an 11-2 record, the hosts picked up their energy in the second half and picked up a big 50-34 win during the G.Y.M.R.A.T. Challenge.

“This was a good win because the girls have confidence going into our next tournament,” said Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen. “We have a few days to tune things up and hopefully we can get a few girls healthy and back on the court. Then we have the holiday and the holiday tournament right after that then we roll right into league.”

Since the 1999, the Dons have won 35 of the 42 games against the Lancers, including 12 straight. Norwalk head coach Ashley Baclaan, who played for the Lancers and graduated in 2005, has yet to defeat Cerritos as both a player and as a coach. The last Norwalk win over Cerritos came on Jan. 28, 2013, a 50-39 victory.

“I always like playing them,” Baclaan said. “They are definitely a great program. It’s a program we are definitely trying to chase. You’re asking me how do you beat them? Hell, I haven’t figured that out yet. But it’s something we’re definitely wanting to work for every time we get the chance. Even when it was in [the Suburban] league, it was always them and Mayfair.”

The opening quarter was more to the liking of Baclaan as her team stayed within two possessions but never took a lead of more than a point as the Lancers held a 13-12 advantage following the first eight minutes. But 56 seconds into the second quarter, Cerritos sophomore Onyeka Nwanze scored the second of her three offensive putbacks to give the Dons a 14-13 lead they would not surrender. The next trip down the court, senior Madhuri Suresh drained a three-pointer and Cerritos began to build a lead that would get as high as 19 points. Both teams combined to connect on 11 of 33 shots in the first quarter. But it was completely different in the second stanza for Norwalk, which was true on one of 11 field goals as Cerritos outscored Norwalk by 10 points.

“I don’t know if they have to get the feel of the game; see where it’s at, see what they do,” Chinen said. “It could be something like that or we just have to get our starters to realize that they have to move the ball around, get the feel of the game then start shooting the ball.



John Glenn High senior Ruby Chavez (left) tries to gain possession from Norwalk High sophomore Keilani Ganancial in last Thursday’s city rivalry game. Norwalk thrashed the Eagles 87-14 as Ganancial scored 12 points on 60 percent shooting from the field.  Chavez hit a three-pointer in the second quarter for her only points of the game. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer


“The second quarter was key for us, and it’s been a key for us in the past,” Chinen continued. “This year, for some reason, we’ve started off slow, our second quarter is good, and then when we come back from halftime, sometimes we start a little slow. If we can get all four quarters in, solid, I think it makes it a little bit easier for the girls.”

“I guess we broke down a bit,” Baclaan said. “We stopped moving our feet defensively. Offensively, we had a couple of careless turnovers. They got us out of our element, and they ran with it.”

With an urgency to get back into the game, Norwalk still couldn’t get on track as Cerritos began the second half on an 8-3 run and with 3:12 left in the third quarter, Cerritos was comfortably up 35-21. Even when offensive putbacks from junior Julia Castellanos and senior Denise Cortez, plus another basket from Cortez in a 58-second span gave the Lancers some hope, it was dashed when the Dons went on a 15-4 run to ice the game.

Cortez led the Lancers with a dozen points while seniors Makayla Moore and Katrina Slaughter each added nine points and seven rebounds. Cerritos, which improved to 7-4, was paced by Nwanze’s 12 points and 19 rebounds off the bench while senior Jasmine Uy, who has missed the past few games with a tweaked ankle, returned to the starting lineup and had nine points, four rebounds and three steals. Cerritos had 55 rebounds with 12 of the 13 players who suited up getting at least one board.

One of the reasons for the early success by Cerritos is the fact that Chinen can use a different starting five each game and it will feel like it’s the same starting lineup. In the 11 games played, there have been eight different starting lineups. In fact, Chinen has been using the “next man up” motto to his team.

“Technically, if you want to look at it, [junior] Emily [Hosoda] should be starting, but she’s out right now,” Chinen said. “So, we had to have someone else come in and step up into her spot. At any given time, you don’t know who is going to be out there on the court.”

Cerritos, which is situated in the Gold Division of the North Torrance Tournament, will face the host school on Monday, followed by games against Granada Hills Charter, Rolling Hills Prep and Hawai’i Baptist High the next three days. After that, 605 League play begins on Jan. 4 with a home meeting with Oxford Academy.

“We’re focusing on the next game and in fact, this is a different squad,” Chinen said. “They don’t look at anything on any type of social media or any website or anything like that. They have no idea who they’re playing against, they have no idea what they’re record is and they’re just going game by game, and that’s it.”

Two day earlier, Norwalk faced another 605 League foe who is also another former Suburban League rival in John Glenn High. The results were completely different as the Lancers feasted on a young and inexperienced Glenn team to the tune of an 87-14 win. Norwalk scored the first 33 points of the game and attempted 28 shots from the field in the opening quarter. The Eagles didn’t score until the 5:32 mark of the second quarter, compliments of a steal and basket from sophomore Diana Bravo. Over half a minute later, senior Ruby Chavez connected on a three-pointer, then in an 18-second span near the end of the half, freshman Aaliyah Ramirez had consecutive steals and baskets.

“I have a real young team; we’re not there yet,” said Glenn first-year head coach Eric Peterson. “We’re not that competitive yet, but we’re working on it. That’s the good part about it; that everybody is young. So, we’re going to grow together and try to turn this into more of a competitive type of rivalry.

“For one thing, it’s a recruiting tool,” he continued. “For the local middle schools, they have the option to come to our school or Norwalk. Playing good basketball is one way that we can help attract more players to come to our school, basically.”

“I know Glenn is rebuilding; they were actually a real young team when I finally saw the roster,” Baclaan said. “We have a lot of veterans on our squad. The Glenn-Norwalk rivalry always goes on. The girls always get energized for it. It’s still a friendly game.”

Norwalk shot better than 50 percent from the field in the first half and just a nick under 50 percent in the second half. For the game, the Lancers were 41 of 81 from the field and all 12 players who suited up scored at least two points and had at least a rebound. Cortez outscored Glenn by two points, grabbed eight rebounds and had three steals while Slaughter and sophomore Keilani Ganancial each added a dozen points. Slaughter also had seven of the 23 steals Norwalk picked up.

Baclaan said one of the keys to her team winning 11 of its first 14 games is that she has seen her team with more open eyes and thinks they’re open and willing to learn adjustments that might be needed, as she put it.

“It’s a pretty good squad this year,” she added. “I think they like each other a lot; they mesh pretty well on and off the court.”

Norwalk faced Tesoro High this past Monday in the first round of the Larry Doyle Tournament of Champions, hosted by Marina High, and fell 55-26 to drop to 11-4. Meanwhile, Glenn has struggled all season long in every area, except the effort given. The Eagles, who also fell to Anaheim High 41-3 last Saturday, are winless in all 10 games and has not scored more than 17 points in any game. Bravo scored seven points against Norwalk, Ramirez four points with four rebounds and a pair of steals and Chavez the other three points with two rebounds and two steals. Glenn has failed to reach double digits in the scoring department three times and no one has scored more than nine points in any game. The Eagles hosted Baldwin Park High on Dec. 23 and will go to South El Monte High on Wednesday.

“I have a lot of patience with this team because I know they’re not that experienced of a team,” Peterson said. “Some of the basic things that they should be getting…I understand that we’re not still getting the full concept yet. But the majority of these players have not played basketball before. So, I kind of expect that. I’m okay with a lot of mistakes there. Some turnovers are unacceptable, you could say. But the fact that I know I have a very young, inexperienced team…I have thick skin and a lot of patience.

“Our effort is getting better and that’s all I can ask for from the girls; that they give me 100 percent out on the court regardless of the outcome,” he later said. “I could see effort out of a lot of the girls. Some of their effort is increasing a lot more than what it was at the beginning of the season.”