Culver City Observer -

Culver Girls: 40 Straight League Wins

Playoffs Begin This Weekend


February 19, 2015

Fred Altieri

Lindsey Tanita - City's consummate point guard

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

The Culver City High girls basketball team will host Quartz Hill High in the first round of the CIF Division 1AA Playoffs this Saturday night, February 21, at 7 pm in Del Goodyear Gymnasium.

The Centaur girls, last year's CIF Division 2AA champions, earned that right by sweeping the Ocean League for the fourth consecutive year.

This past week's victories at home over Hawthorne, 56-47, and Beverly Hills on Senior Night, 60-41, extended the team's current league winning streak to 40 games.

Certainly it would be difficult to find a greater run in the school's athletic history regardless of the sport, boys teams included.

The league dominance began in the third season under the reign of head coach Julian Anderson and assistant coach Mark Kitabayashi. A total of 27 girls have played since and have combined to beat their league opponents by an average score of 58-35. This year's version is perhaps the most satisfying.

Kitabayashi shed light on the team's beginnings and success:

"This year has definitely been the most gratifying because in years past we knew what we had. Coming into this year we basically lost 50% of our offense and defensive presence with Michelle Curry and Kelsey Ueda not being here.

"I don't think we were expected to do as well this year but the girls have really stepped up. We had to do more coaching this year than the last couple of years, which has been fun for Julian and me."

Kitabayashi was born in the area and attended the Culver City elementary, middle and high schools where he played volleyball and earned all-league, all-Westside and the Evening Outlook's all-team honors in basketball. He then accepted a basketball scholarship at The College of Idaho for one year before transferring to UCLA.

He expressed his fortune: "I played JV for a year at UCLA just to have fun and luckily Coach Larry Brown would come and watch our games. He invited me to participate and then to be on the varsity team which was amazing.

"So I got see the inside of a major Division I program. It was a great time because that was my parents' alma mater and they were happy. I grew up watching UCLA basketball during the John Wooden era, going to the games and everything. So it was a great experience."

Coach Mark, as the girls call him, has been coaching basketball for 33 years and started helping at Culver when his son and daughter were playing. That's how he met Anderson.

"He was coaching the JV team and we hit it off. When Julian was offered the girls varsity job I came with him and helped coach the team. The first year was pretty tough but once we got our system in place it really started to flow nicely. We've always had continuity, three or four good players to start off as freshmen or sophomores with us and kind of grow up in the program.

"We had Taylor Tanita who was just an amazing point guard and one of the best players who ever came through Culver City. With her at the helm it made things real easy for us because we had a coach on the court. We had Lunden Junious who was a force underneath. With that one-two punch we were able to get complimentary players around that.

"It really came together though two years ago when we got transfer Shannon Yahn. She came in and solidified the post area and that was the year we went to the finals in 2013. By then we were pretty well established in what we wanted to do with our practices, games and everything else.

"That culminated into last year's team. Of course we were fortunate to get Michelle Curry, a dominant center. Once we had Michelle it was tough for other teams to focus on one player. If they started double-teaming down we had Kelsey, Katie Lin, Lindsey Tanita and Megan Yoon outside, and Kailey Tooke.

"Julian and I have a lot of the same philosophies in terms of coaching and playing basketball. But it's Julian's team, he has the final word and what he says goes. We do have discussions all the time in what to do in certain situations, practices and thinking."

Gwen Machado goes up for the score

Coach Mark also absorbed from coaching great Larry Brown: "He never talked about winning. His motto was: always play the right way. What he meant by that was playing the fundamentals, playing smart, playing with intensity and passion and that's what we try to instill into these girls out here too.

"We never talk about winning, the winning streak, winning the championship last year and going to the finals the year before that. We just talk about the next game and what we need to do to perform on the court.

"We're treating our playoff games like any other game. The only difference is that there are more days in between games otherwise it's the same practices. We don't put it in the girls' minds that this game is somehow more important or more special. It's business as usual."


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