Culver City Observer -

Culver Basketball Coach Pleased With Team's Progress

Centaur Boys Win San Gabriel Tournament


January 15, 2015

Fred Altieri

Darae Thompson pushes the ball upcourt

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

The Culver City High boys basketball team has completed its pre-season schedule leading up to 2014-15 Ocean League action that begins this week.

The Centaurs will travel south to take on Lawndale High, then will host El Segundo on Friday night, January 16, in Del Goodyear Gymnasium.

The Centaurs capped off their final pre-season week against three high schools from Torrance. They beat West High, 59-48, before losing to Torrance, 51-46, and North High, 84-63, in a Saturday afternoon game.

The previous week the Culver boys trekked east to Alhambra for four games in five days to win the San Gabriel Tournament. Culver beat the host San Gabriel High Matadors in overtime of the championship match on a tip-in at the buzzer, 64-62.

Centaur head coach Adam Eskridge on the final seconds that led to the title: "The lead was back and forth in overtime. We went up by four with 30 seconds to go. Then things got crazy. Their player made a three-pointer from the corner as we just nicked him for a foul. He made the free throw tying it up with eight seconds to go in the game.

"We called a time-out and drew up the play. We took a jump shot that didn't go in but Darae Thompson crashed in and tipped the rebound in at the buzzer. Our guys stormed the court and mobbed him.

"It was well-played on both sides. We won the trophy, Darae was named the tournament MVP and Kyle Johnson was first team all-tournament. The guys were really excited. It was one of the more enjoyable fun games that I've coached."

Eskridge on Culver's final tune-up games: "North is built on pressure and fast-breaking. They're they type of team that can burn you really fast. Offensively we had good looks that didn't go in but with a lot of turnovers we weren't getting many shots. Defensively we played hard. Besides the second quarter we did a good job of limiting their game."

The Centaurs continued to show improvement according to Eskridge: "There was a big focus on rebounding against North as the game against Torrance we gave up too many offensive rebounds. We did a much better job today. Physically we are small but we have some guys that can board, have a little bounce to them and can go up and get the ball."

Eskridge: "Against both teams we were playing well at the start but we should have come out with a more commanding lead after the first quarter. At least I know we are coming out of the gate well defensively."

The Ocean League is the focus of the team now. With new league members Lawndale and El Segundo joining the chase Culver will not see an easy game for the remainder of the season including the playoffs should the team qualify for a spot in the CIF Boys Basketball post-season tournament.

Eskridge noted: "Chris Brownlee, the coach at Lawndale, and I grew up together in the coaching ranks at the same time. He's a great coach and I kind of know what he likes to do. But he's got two big Division 1 guys so we're going to have to counteract their size and athleticism when we face them.

"El Segundo sounds like they have a few shooters on their team. Santa Monica is better than what their current record indicates they are as they've played a very difficult schedule to date.

"Beverly seems to be coming on recently and they got a transfer in who's pretty big and pretty good. We have a couple of common opponents with Hawthorne. I'll be getting some tape on them this week."

Winning the tournament was significant to Eskridge: "The biggest thing we achieved by winning the San Gabriel Tournament was about building our confidence. But I was disappointed we didn't go 4-0 in the tournament."

The game against Blair started things off for Culver. "Darae was fantastic in the game as he had 22 points in the second half and Kyle had 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Fred Altieri

Malik McLinn with the ball, Ben Arena boxes out

"We played Aquinas on Monday. It was a tough night but our bench guys, Isaiah Benson, Tyler Nakamoto and Malik McLinn, who's starting now, picked us up and led us to the win."

Coach Eskridge's final assessment: "There's not a night off in our league. Last year all six teams in the Ocean League made the playoffs. But we're going into this thing to win it. I know the guys are going to compete hard and we'll challenge for the title as well as anyone as far as I'm concerned.

"If someone told me that we would already have seven wins with a chance to have won nine or ten at this point in the season I would have thought they were crazy.

"I knew this team had good things ahead of them. I didn't know it would come quite as early as it did. I'm so proud of where they've come from to where they are now."


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