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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Cerritos girls basketball unable to find shots in final minutes of Segerstrom Tournament opener

December 14, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

SANTA ANA-It was a valiant effort by the Cerritos High girls basketball when it faced Cypress High in pool play action of the Segerstrom Tournament this past Tuesday. The Dons were down by 10 points nearly midway through the first quarter and again with 25.4 seconds left in the first half.

But Cerritos began the second half on a 17-7 run to take its first lead, and even trailed by two points with under three minutes remaining in the game before the Centurions pulled away for a 69-60 victory.

“I think if we didn’t get off to a bad start, I think it would have been a little different as far as the outcome of this game,” said Cerritos head coach Marcus Chinen. “But this is what this team has. They’ll keep fighting and fighting all the way until the end and that’s all we can expect out of this team.”

Cypress was up 14-4 three and a half minutes into the contest before senior Oneyka Nwanze scored consecutive baskets in a span of 37 seconds. After Isabella Caceres drained a three-pointer, junior Kishan Saberon answered with one of her one, followed by a basket from Nwanze off an offensive rebound to make it 17-13 with 1:40 left in the stanza.

Nwanze and Saberon would combine for all the 15 points Cerritos scored in the opening quarter, but the former would continue her stellar play in the second quarter. She added six more points and grabbed five rebounds as the Dons were down 34-25 at the break.

In the third quarter, the Dons came out with that fire and energy Chinen was looking for. Within the first 2:42, they went on a 12-5 run thanks to seven points from sophomore Cameron Lacorte, a three-pointer from senior Mia Rivera and another bucket from Nwanze. A three-pointer from Saberon gave Cerritos its first lead at 42-41 with 3:58 left in the stanza and it was 47-47 before the Centurions scored the last five points in the final 32.2 seconds of the quarter.

“It was a great game,” Chinen told his team at halftime. “If we didn’t dig ourselves in that hole early in the first, I think it would have been a different game. But it takes a lot of energy from the team to fight back in.”

Cerritos scored three straight baskets just past the midway point of the fourth quarter and were still trailing 59-57 with 2:55 remaining before Cypress called a timeout. That’s when the Centurions went on an 8-0 run to put the contest away. Nwanze posted a season-high 25 points and grabbed 18 rebounds while Lacorte and Saberon added 14 and 10 points respectively.

Nwanze, who missed the 2022-2023 season, didn’t return to the team until late in the offseason, but hasn’t missed a beat. She has scored at least 10 points in seven of the first eight games of the season, and at least 15 points five times.

“We’re looking for…the shooters that we have on the team to pull through for us,” said Chinen. “That’s one thing I think they need to see. They need to see the ball go through the net. Once they see that, hopefully it will get our shooters fired up.”

Cerritos faced Woodbridge High this past Wednesday and will have single games on Friday and Saturday before hosting North Torrance High on Dec. 22. 

In other girls basketball action, Gahr High saw its eight-game winning streak snapped following a 47-43 loss to Millikan High this past Monday. The Gladiators went to Bolsa Grande High this past Wednesday and will host Valley Christian High on Friday, Lakewood High on Monday, and Mayfair High on Wednesday. V.C. is 6-5 after a 54-40 win over Norwalk High this past Tuesday and will host Bellflower High on Thursday.

BOYS BASKETBALL

Artesia High defeated Santa Fe High 66-39 this past Tuesday behind 17 points from senior Zion Staples and 10 points from senior Isaac Brown. The Pioneers improved to 7-3 as they will face Poinciana High of Kissimmee, FL on Tuesday in the Osceola Holiday Tournament.

Cerritos dropped a 71-50 decision to Marina High this past Tuesday as its record is leveled after 10 games. The Dons host La Habra High on and Gahr on Wednesday while Gahr, which fell to California High 64-55 this past Tuesday, is 5-4 and hosted Rancho Dominguez Prep on Dec. 14.

John Glenn High began the week at 6-3 as the Eagles hosted Collins Family this past Wednesday and will go to The Seed School of Los Angeles County on Friday and Acaciawood Prep Academy on Saturday before hosting Norwalk on Tuesday.

Norwalk, which lost to Workman High 69-45 last Friday, began the week with a 3-6 mark as the Lancers are in the Loara Tournament this week. They will go to Avalon High on Thursday while V.C., which hasn’t played since Dec. 2, will host Chaminade High on Friday and Kennedy High on Wednesday.

Whitney High is 8-3 as it hosted Santa Monica High this past Wednesday. The Wildcats will travel to Irvine High on Friday before hosting Los Amigos High on Wednesday. 

BOYS SOCCER

Artesia blanked Lynwood High 2-0 this past Tuesday to improve to 4-0-1 as it went to Kennedy on Dec. 14 and will travel to Norwalk on Tuesday. The Pioneers will then host Baldwin Park High on Thursday.

Cerritos lost to North Torrance 1-0 last Friday to fall to 2-4 as it host Marina on Friday, Bellflower on Tuesday, and Esperanza High on Thursday while Gahr was blanked by Covina High 1-0 this past Monday, seeing its record fall to 1-4-2. The Gladiators hosted Santa Fe on Dec. 14 and will entertain Yorba Linda High on Tuesday.

Glenn ended the Warrior Invitational with a 3-1 loss to Crean Lutheran High last Saturday to fall to 4-4-1. The Eagles visited Santa Fe this past Wednesday and will go to Ocean View High on Friday and Whittier High on Thursday.

La Mirada High began the week at 3-4, having been shutout in every loss while posting a goose egg in all three wins. The Matadores will go to Norwalk on Friday and Brea Olinda High on Tuesday.

Norwalk dropped a 2-0 decision to Schurr High last Friday and was 1-4 entering its home game with Anaheim High this past Wednesday while V.C. earned its first win of the season after knocking off Santa Fe 3-1 last Saturday. The Defenders (1-6-2) went to Crean Lutheran this past Wednesday and hosted Whittier on Dec. 14. They will entertain Pacifica High on Wednesday and Mayfair on Thursday.

Whitney lost to Whittier 5-1 this past Tuesday and is winless in eight games, having been outscored 38-7. The Wildcats went to Bolsa Grande on Dec. 14 and will go to Wilson High on Friday before welcoming California Academy of Math and Science on Monday and Samueli Academy on Wednesday.

GIRLS SOCCER

Artesia fell to New West Charter High 2-0 before defeating Riverside Prep 2-1 last Saturday in the Best in the West Tournament. The Pioneers (5-1-1) will face San Gabriel High on Saturday in the first of two games in the tournament, then will visit Norwalk on Wednesday.

Cerritos beat Gahr 3-0 last Friday before losing to Sonora High 2-0 in the first game of the Best in the West Tournament last Saturday. The Dons (3-3) hosted La Serna High this past Wednesday and will face Crean Lutheran on Saturday in the first of two games in the tournament for their final games of the month.

Gahr, another team in the Best of the West Tournament, lost to Segerstrom High 3-0 and Bell Gardens High 2-0 last Saturday, then snapped a three-game skid with a 5-0 win over Norwalk this past Tuesday to improve to 3-6-1. The Gladiators will face Magnolia High on Saturday, go to Whittier Christian High on Tuesday and host Hawthorne High on Thursday.

Glenn (1-4-1) was blasted by Whittier Christian 11-0 this past Monday and hosted Santa Fe this past Wednesday. The Eagles will travel to Savanna High on Friday before hosting Paramount High Tuesday and visiting Bellflower on Thursday.

La Mirada, the fourth area team in the Best in the West Tournament, lost to Apple Valley High 2-0 but bounced back to nip Sierra Canyon High 2-1 last Saturday. The Matadores (1-2-3) visited Canyon High on Dec. 14 and will face Dana Hills High on Saturday in the first of two games. They will also host Yorba Linda on Wednesday.

Norwalk began the week at 1-5-1 and has been outscored 16-2 as the Lancers hosted San Gabriel High on Dec. 14 while V.C. blanked Westminster High 3-0 and Temple City High 2-0 last Saturday in the Best in the West Tournament and will face Flintridge Prep on Saturday with one more to come later in the day.