By Fred Altieri
The Culver City High girls basketball team put an exclamation point on its week after Saturday's non-league victory against Ridgeview High, 53-32, in the MLK Extravaganza tournament hosted by Narbonne High.
The win followed two more Ocean League successes days earlier on the road at Inglewood and Hawthorne.
Coach Julian Anderson was succinct in describing the game, "We played Ridgeview from Bakersfield and we won. Right now we're doing a good job at staying poised and not allowing early deficits to get us in a funk. That's a good sign. In the first quarter we were down a couple of baskets and the game looked like we were going to have to put up a bigger fight."
The Centaur girls had the game under control by halftime while extending their current win streak to five games, four of them coming in league action. The Wolf Pack opened the game at a slow pace but the effectiveness was short-lived once Culver got their bearings straight.
Anderson added "We were pretty much in control from halftime on. Our team is used to getting up and down the court playing the early offense. But we were forced to go half-court which gave us some issues. Our girls hit some good shots which kept us afloat. I thought the girls stayed poised and we ended up pulling away."
Earlier in the week on Wednesday at Inglewood the game had a different tone. Subsequently the game was still on the line midway through the fourth quarter. Inevitably though, Culver prevailed by 10 points, 68-58.
The Sentinels were primed to upset the Centaurs and held the lead after each of the first three quarters including a first quarter 17-14 lead.
Coach Anderson didn't underestimate Inglewood but the game started with only one referee which added to the drama.
"Inglewood came out with a good game plan and were in control for a huge part of the game. I also happen to believe though that we were having a hard time because there was only one referee. With one referee there tends to be some missed calls but there were no excuses."
The Sentinels established themselves as Culver's sternest Ocean League opponent so far this season. Culver City's Lindsey Tanita and Kelsey Ueda responded decisively in the team's first Ocean League road game of the season.
Anderson offered "Lindsey Tanita probably shot the best she's ever shot the ball in her high school career. That helped. She had four or five three-pointers and three or four of them came in the second half. Kelsey Ueda followed with some good shots and good play. It was Lindsey's shots but it was Kelsey's play that turned it around for us."
Still struggling, the Centaurs managed to reduce the deficit after the third quarter to six points at 48-42. But the fourth quarter saw the tides change when Culver began cutting through the Inglewood defense with resolve and execution.
Anderson. "I thought the girls didn't allow the situation to really rattle them. I just don't think we did a good job adjusting fast enough. Inglewood threw a lot of things at us. They were playing and executing very well and we weren't recognizing our adjustments to our scenarios. It took us a while but that doesn't take away the credit from Inglewood. They came in with a really good solid game plan."
Friday night's game at Hawthorne was a welcome respite for the Centaurs as they systematically took care of the Cougar girls, 62-22. They grabbed the baton from the opening seconds and dashed off to a quick 23-8 lead. Culver was never threatened.
They also set nets on fire from beyond the three-point line.
Anderson spoke of the sharpshooting. "I don't think you're going to lose too many games shooting 63% from behind the three-point line. Katie Lin shot 82% in the first half. It was one of those days where we shot the ball well from behind the three-point line.
"What can you say to that? That's one of those lucky things when we shoot the ball that well."
The Cougars were resigned to sticking with their game plan while rebuilding their program. "I don't think the Hawthorne coach's game plan looked to doubling Michelle. He decided to go with that throughout the game because he didn't think that we were going to shoot that well. Who shoots that well throughout the whole game? So he was gambling on it and luck was on our side."
And once again despite the success there was still more work to do according to Anderson. "Solid. We are playing solid basketball. We've got a little room for improvement and we have to do better if we want to win the second half of the season."