First Time in School History
By Fred Altieri
Play by play, quarter by quarter, game by game the 2013-14 Culver City High girls basketball team is raising the bar of success while rewriting the school's record book.
After another thrilling victory, 53-52, last Saturday at Del Goodyear Gymnasium over visiting Garces Memorial High from Bakersfield, the Centaur girls have now claimed their first two state tournament wins in the school's history.
Their nail-biter followed a first round CIF State Girls Division 2 Basketball Championship win the previous Tuesday night when Culver hosted and formally handled Roosevelt High from the Boyle Heights area, 64-40.
It was their first victory ever in the state championship tournament. They had previously lost their first round state championship games on three separate occasions.
Garces High proved to be a formidable threat to the Culver girls as they pounced to an early big lead. Centaur head coach Julian Anderson noted: "Garces pretty much led throughout the whole game. They started the game leading 11-1. Sometimes at the beginning of games it takes a few minutes to get adjusted and figure it out. They came at us quickly."
The Rams were effective with their very dominant sophomore as she scored 16 points and completely controlled the boards. She gave the Centaurs all they could handle according to Anderson: "They were an average-size team with one huge girl. She was very big and she dominated. I believe she had 20-something rebounds."
The Centaurs recovered from their 16-5 first quarter deficit to pull within four points at half, 28-24. They made the necessary adjustments going into the second half.
Anderson: "It was a matter of us changing some things and getting a few shots to go down. They were only beating us on a couple of things: they were going into the big girl, forcing it into her. But since we were over-playing it they were skipping it because they had a really good shooter. Then they would set a screen on the other side that would delay our defense from getting out. So we made a small adjustment."
The Centaurs were undermining their effort throughout by failing to convert their free throws. But they finally got their never-settled home crowd behind them during the third quarter when Anderson received a technical foul. It was a turning point according to the coach.
"Our fans were in a rowdy situation. I got a technical foul called on me and it seemed to fire everybody up. That happened in the third quarter and that's when things started to turn around for us. Some of the calls..."
It wasn't until the fourth quarter when Culver took its first lead with just over five minutes to play, 44-41, on a Lindsey Tanita three-pointer. She scored 12 points for the game.
Anderson on her contribution, "Lindsey came up with two really big baskets, one a three-pointer for the lead. Once we went up they never got the lead back."
And Culver never did relinquish the lead as they went on an 11-2 run led once again by Michelle Curry and a team unwilling to succumb to the pressure.
Anderson observed: "Our girls seemed focused and poised. In the moment they didn't get rattled at all. It was one of those games where we kept chipping away as well as riding on Michelle's shoulders."
Curry ended up with a game-high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
Anderson: "We called our last time out with a little more than a minute left. We wanted to make sure that our players understood their assignments because it was crucial with the score being so close. We were trying not to foul as we were in foul trouble. By doing that we allowed them a couple of easy baskets. But we felt like we had the game under control and it didn't really hurt us."
Garces made one last push in the final minutes trying to extend its 29-game winning streak. They never reached the finish line to the relief of the Culver fans while their girls extended their current winning streak to 18 games including the last seven coming in the post season.
Tuesday's milestone win at home against Roosevelt was an easier affair as the Centaurs led wire-to-wire. The Rough Riders were prepared with a never-say-die-attitude but it wasn't enough. Katie Lin hit three three-pointers on her way to 17 points, adding to another total team effort.
Anderson took it in stride: "Against Roosevelt we got out real fast and were a bit more talented than they were. They were very well-coached but we outplayed them. Katie Lin has done that all year. We just need to do a better job of getting her the ball at certain times because she's such a good shooter." Curry and Kailey Tooke added 22 and 15 points respectively.
The team roster's local make-up is not lost on Anderson: "We're most proud of the fact that we're not a highly-recruited program. We pretty much work with the kids from the community. That's been the biggest appreciation in that the girls from our community are a major part of this success."