Playoff Defeat Ends Season For Culver Girls


Fred Altieri

Kailey Tooke with the ball

By Fred Altieri

Sports Reporter

Truman Capote might as well have written the final chapter of the 2014-15 Culver City High girls basketball story. Leveraged and borrowed and reconstructed words and phrases from his 1956 classic short story "A Christmas Memory" help wrap up a meaningful season and some distinctive careers.

"Just tonight the final score dissolved into distant memories. And when it happened the Culver basketball girls knew it. The scoreboard saying so merely confirmed a departure, the severing of an irreplaceable part of themselves, letting it loose like kites on a broken string.

Walking across the school campus on this particular February evening the departing crowd kept searching the skies. As if they expected to see," "rather like stars, bright blue kites hurrying towards Centaur heaven."

It all ended with a spirited but unsuccessful rally as the Centaurs lost to visiting Los Alamitos High, 44-30, on Wednesday, February 25 at the Del Goodyear Gymnasium.

The 2015 CIF – Division 1AA second round defensive battle saw the Griffins from Orange County disrupt Culver's first half offense and repel a last quarter surge with timely stops supported by free-throw line accuracy.

Culver was down only 4-3 after center Gwen Machado went to the bench as two quick fouls were called on her at the start of the game. Los Alamitos began to capitalize on her absence to control the boards and lead 11-5 after the first quarter.

Adding to Culver's predicament was that its usually high-percentage shots were simply not finding the bottom of the net.

Machado on the team's early frustration: "Everyone played really hard but we got off to a bad start. The shots weren't falling and things weren't going our way. We were never able to completely get caught up."

The Griffins continued the effective game plan to increase their lead to 18-8 at halftime. It was the Centaurs' lowest scoring and lowest shooting percentage half of the season. Fortunately their defense created problems for Los Alamitos that kept the game within reach.

The Culver girls came out energized in the third quarter but soon found themselves down by 19 points as the scoring drought continued. That's when Katie Lin suddenly woke the gymnasium up with three three-point bombs that brought them to within striking distance once again by the end of the quarter, 27-17.

The team has a never-say-die attitude according to Machado: "It's been a very long season but we thought that no matter what we could always catch up. The reputation of us always winning and knowing that we're smaller than everyone else makes us work harder."

The fourth quarter turned into a donnybrook with both teams raising their level of play. The Centaurs, behind Machado's dominating board play, blocked shots and relentless hustle, quickly gelled for their final push.

She explained: "I think I was trying to make up for when I had to be taken out of the game because of the fouls.

"I just wanted to do really well in the last game. I let the opponents know that I wasn't going to let them push me around. When they realized that they kind of backed off."

Culver's last hurrah brought the intimate home crowd encouraged by the school's cheer team to a screaming frenzy when Megan Yoon hit a three pointer from deep space with 1:33 left in the game. The deficit was a mere six points.

But the Centaurs were forced to foul with the clock running out. Los Alamitos secured the very satisfying victory with excellent free throw shooting by converting 13 of 18 from the line in the waning moments.

The game marked the end of a remarkable era in Culver High girls basketball as the entire starting lineup: seniors Gwen Machado, Megan Yoon, Lindsey Tanita and Katie Lin and junior Kailey Tooke as well as junior Kate Suyetsugu and freshman Hayley Yamamoto all attended Culver City's acclaimed El Marino Language School from kindergarten on in the Japanese immersion program.

The homegrown girls naturally continued on to the Culver City middle and high schools. Each has also played in the same traveling league though on several different teams from an early age including fellow teammate Alexis Aquino and team manager Megan Montez.

Fred Altieri

Gwen Machado's final pregame introduction

It's been a wonderful ride for the entire group said Machado: "I'm really honored that I got to play all four years on varsity under Julian and Mark. (Head coach Julian Anderson and assistant coach Mark Kitabayashi) It was incredible to win and go undefeated in league for four years and also win CIF last year."

Machado signed off: "It was nice to play our last game at home. I'll miss playing basketball with my friends and playing for Julian and Mark. I hope the team does well next year."

Mr. Capote's final recreated words certainly second her sentiments: "The wind is blowing. The candle burns. Out it goes, exposing the starlight and the spinning stars that time slowly silences. As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."


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