Rebuilding Year? Not These Culver Girls
February 4, 2016
It's been a challenging year so far for the 2015-16 Culver City High girls basketball team. They fought through a tough preseason and incurred their first Ocean League loss in five seasons a few weeks ago at El Segundo High. The young team has clearly been struggling to establish its identity.
Regardless, the Centaur girls are quietly on a six-game winning streak. Following two non-league wins they have swept their last four Ocean League contests and are back into a first place tie with El Segundo at 5-1. Their latest victory was a 38-35 squeaker at Lawndale High on Friday, January 29.
Culver was down 19-8 at halftime, its lowest offensive output for a half in recent memory. Lawndale's defense was effective early on according to Centaur head coach Julian Anderson: "They were running a zone and it was giving us some issues.
"It took some time but we started to figure it out in the second half. We finally found a rhythm. It was a matter of us getting a feel for what was going on."
The Centaurs improved play but still trailed 26-19 going into the final quarter. With eight minutes remaining the home crowd eagerly sensed an upset while a swing in momentum was on Culver's mind.
And it happened. Kailey Tooke, the team's leading scorer found her rhythm. First she drove for a layup. Then came a fast break layup. Next was a 12-foot baseline swish, then a free throw. The Centaurs trailed by only three points with five minutes to play.
Anderson: "Kailey was looking to find her way. It took her a little time. There's a lot on her plate. We're asking her to do any and everything that's hard to do: score all the points, guard the best player and be the leader. That's a lot of responsibility even for a senior."
Centaur point guard Lauren Jones stroked a clutch 3-pointer with 4:41 remaining to tie the game at 29-29. Tooke scored on a floater a half-minute later for a 31-29 Cuvler lead. Lawndale punched back with a 3-pointer to retake the lead, 32-31, with 3:31 to go.
"We tried to run a combination of things against Lawndale but we still fell apart at times. We just started to add different defensive schemes a few practices ago. They haven't had much time to work on them but I thought it was important to start implementing them," said Anderson.
Tooke tied the game with a free throw at 3:19. The Culver defense started getting stingier while the offense applied pressure in the paint. Freshman center Heaven Cooper hit two crucial free throws for a 34-32 Centaur lead at the 2:30 mark.
Lawndale's free throw at 1:35 brought them to within a point, 34-33. Tooke's free throw at 1:01 gave Culver a 35-33 lead. With a screaming crowd on its feet senior Culver guard Kate Suyetsugu stole the ball on a Lawndale drive up the middle.
The defensive play of the game came with 21.7 seconds remaining as Tooke tipped and stole Lawndale's inbound pass from their baseline. She hit two more free throws for a 37-33 Culver lead.
Lawndale last gasp came with 6.6 seconds left and two converted free throws. Seconds later, tooke iced the game with two free throws for a game high 15 points, all in the second half.
Anderson concluded: "It looks like we're starting to come together. I think we're way better than how we've been playing but I'm actually starting to become happy with what I'm seeing.
"At this point in the season we want to continually get better, to gel and hopefully go into the playoffs at our peak. If we can do that we will have some success."