Team Progresses Through Tough Schedule
The Culver City High boys basketball team is already a good month deep into the 2013-14 season, mainly a rough campaign of tournament games.
Full team practice has been impacted recently due to injuries and holiday schedules conflicting with the students' family time and other obligations.
Now entering 2014 with a 7-7 won-loss record, the journey hasn't been easy but is starting to pay dividends. The competition has been tough and appears to have galvanized the Centaur squad by evidence of its 65-61 come from behind victory on Monday, December 30 over Rolling Hills Prep. The Centaurs outscored the Huskies by 10 points in the final quarter.
The previous two weeks had been a whirlwind. It started off with a convincing home victory against Angelou High of South Los Angeles. The Wolfpack made a game of it despite the 92-69 final score.
Centaur head coach Adam Eskridge liked what he saw.
"The game against Angelou High was exciting in terms that our offense finally brought their game to the party. We had 36 points in the first quarter. I was happy with the level of effort, the enthusiasm, the way we moved the ball. It was a good building block game for us.
"Angelou was scrappy. They didn't come here just to get their butts kicked. But our guys responded well in the third quarter. We came out and put the game away."
The next game at St. Bernard High in Westchester was a different story. The Centaurs fell behind early and ran out of time in the end to fall to the Vikings, 69-64. Coach Eskridge lamented,
"The game against St. Bernard was a very difficult loss. The two Palisades losses are disappointing to me but St. Bernard's is right up there with them.
"I felt like we were a better team than them. A lot of our guys grew up with a lot of their guys and were fired up to play but their guys were more fired up and it showed right from the start.
"In the first half we had too many turnovers and our guys just weren't engaged defensively. We played much better in the second half with a different type of zone that bothered them. But we didn't properly prepare for that game as a team and it showed. They were hungry. They took it to us and they deserved that win."
The Centaurs motored down the road to the Redondo Beach Classic for a first round game against North Torrance. The Saxons' high-pressure, up-tempo attack exposed holes in Culver's game and they won handily, 82-67.
Eskridge was realistic, "North Torrance is a team that plays a lot of pressure and really gets after you on defense. They fly up and down the court. They've been doing that for years and years. We started a different type of lineup.
"Where we got hurt was when Chris Edwards came in about three to four minutes into the game. On his very first possession he rolled his ankle. He played for about 10 seconds.
"North Torrance ramped it up. We had trouble scoring and we had trouble stopping them. Armani Nicolis took the initiative and scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. We still scored 67 points in that game while turning the ball over 25 times under pressure and we didn't have our second leading scorer."
The Centaurs made amends in their rematch with St. Bernard in Round 2 with a 62-58 overtime win. Coach was impressed, "The rematch against St. Bernard was a character win for us. Things weren't going our way throughout the game and St. Bernard was confident.
"What I liked about the game was that was by far our best ball movement offensively, especially in overtime because they were coming after us with pressures and traps. We just kept making the right play, kept finding the open man. We just scored layup after layup in overtime.
"We looked under control on offense and defensively we got a chip on our shoulder and our swagger back on that end and really played some good defense down the stretch."
But the third round game and rematch against Palisades High was disappointing. Eskridge wasn't pleased, "The game was almost the exact carbon copy of the first time we played them. We had a tough time guarding them early. They played a zone in which we had the worst time cracking.
"Physically we were diving on the floor, flying up and down the court, rebounding and blocking shots. But we weren't mentally engaged in the game. It was very frustrating from a coaching perspective."
But the Centaurs stormed the Dolphins and came within one point of the lead in the final minute. "And just like the first time we played them, we had a serious comeback in the last two minutes. Isaac Girley hit back to back three-pointers off of steals and we cut the lead to one.
"Then their player made two free throws. But we were out of timeouts and we went right down the floor and took a layup instead of a three-pointer. And that was the one point difference."