Early 12-3 Start Is Encouraging
By Fred Altieri
Fans of the Culver City High girls basketball team know that the team played in the 2013 CIF State Basketball Championships last season while compiling a record 24 wins under the tutelage of Julian Anderson and his staff. The girls can no longer can fly under the radar.
Despite the team losing its top player and leader from last year due to graduation and the fact they are now a marked date on their opponents' calendar, the girls have quietly embarked on their 2013-14 season with a 12-3 record.
After Monday's 56-42 convincing win over visiting South Torrance High at Del Goodyear Gymnasium, Coach Anderson remarked on the challenge.
"I feel like whenever you play a team, the first thing you do is look at their history. So right away when you see that a team went to the finals you tend to want to play up a little bit, you want to get up for the game. And when you're 'that team' it's like a target is placed on your back and everybody is gunning for that target."
The Centaurs began the game slowly but eventually warmed up to a new starting lineup with Michelle Curry anchoring the low post. To say she was effective is an understatement as she controlled the boards defensively, inspired her teammates to bang the glass offensively, scored on put-backs and even deftly pushed the ball up the court on several occasions.
Anderson was impressed with his team. "I was actually pretty proud. It was a solid effort from every girl on the team. We went into a five minute stretch where we kind of lost our way but outside of that I thought our effort was good.
"I thought they played well together. Today was the first day we had Michelle Curry back. Integrating her in was difficult at first. I think the girls really wanted to get her involved but after awhile it started to work out."
The Spartans gave Culver all they could handle initially with the score tied after the first quarter at 10-10. But the Centaurs put the clamps down in the next two quarters to lead 44-26 after three quarters. South Torrance cut the lead to nine points halfway through the fourth quarter. It would be their last gasp as the Culver girls nailed the door shut with a pressing defense while controlling the pace offensively.
After the team started the season with three wins, they suffered two stinging defeats in late November during the Inglewood City of Champs Tournament to West Torrance and Inglewood. They aptly responded by taking home the Championship trophy in the mid-December El Segundo Tournament by sweeping four victories from Palos Verdes, Westminster, Lawndale and host El Segundo.
Two days later, the Centaurs took their winning act on the road to the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. After a nail-biting 40-39 victory over the Arbor View High Aggies of Las Vegas, and quality wins over Granite Hills of El Cajon, California and Douglas High of Minden, Nevada the girls took on the #4 team in Nevada, Centennial High of Las Vegas.
The game was close until the final quarter when Culver ran out of steam and eventually succumbed, 58-42. Anderson was pleased with his team's performance despite some added challenges.
"Vegas was surprisingly better than expected. I thought we played tough. We had a lot of injuries and a lot of girls not playing," he said.
It was good for them to get out there and have to play a '2' position playing a '5' position, and a '3' playing a '4'. It was good for everybody to play different positions, to take that diversity and win some games. It was a great effort."
The Centaurs finished the tournament with a 4-1 record by easily handling El Segundo in a rematch, 51-29.
Anderson still looks for improvement. "The season so far has been good. We're not as consistent as I would like for us to be," he said.
"The effort is up and down. I would like it to be higher, to stay there and to be a little better. We've got to get sharper on offense and defensively also. We have room for improvement. We're doing okay."
The Culver City girls are not getting complacent and have a few tough matches this week before they begin league play.
Ocean League games begin next Wednesday.
" I tend to only pay attention to the next game," said Anderson. "We have two big games coming up before that and they're going to be difficult, at West Torrance and Serra. I really haven't thought about league as of right now."
So far the team has met the challenge this year according to the coach. "Teams have been playing hard against us, it's been fun and I like the competition. It's been good."
The current roster for the 2013-14 Culver City High girls basketball team: Alexis Aquno – SF,PF; Alexis Arancibia – C,PF; Gwendolyn Machado – C,PF; Kailey Tooke – SF,F; Kate Suyetsugu – SF,SG; Katie Lin – SG,G; Kelli Tademaru – SF,F; Kelsey Ueda – SG,G,F; Lindsey Tanita – PG,SG; Megan Yoon – PG,SG and Michelle Curry – PF,C. Assistant coach: Mark Kitabayashi.