Culver Boys Close In On League Championship
February 8, 2018
When was the last time Culver City High boys basketball began the Ocean League season with and 8-0 record and a guaranteed tie for the league title?
We're still checking the record books. The Centaurs took two more league contests last week to increase their two-game lead over powers Santa Monica Vikings (6-2) and Beverly Hills Normans (6-2) with two games remaining.
Culver went on the road twice last week to handily defeat Lawndale High, 94-67, on Wednesday, January 31 before destroying the Hawthorne High Cougars, 109-24, two nights later. The victories appropriately set up must-win situations for their final two league opponents: hosting SaMoHi this Tuesday night and at Beverly on Thursday. Both promise to be the premier games of the league season.
The Centaurs jumped all over Lawndale for 33 points in the first quarter and never looked back. They continued to use a balanced scoring attack to methodically distance themselves from the Cardinals. Culver led 83-46 after three quarters before head coach Reggie Morris brought in his reserves to finish business.
Pleased with the team's progress, Morris stressed the need to improve: "We just have to continue to get better... every second of the day, every practice. So we're trying to focus on certain things and playing good basketball at all times."
"It's not as much a strategic thing as it is make the right play, to continue to help each other on offense and defense to become a better team. Everybody, when their number was called stepped up tonight."
Ryan Willoughby and Tevian Jones each scored seven points in the first quarter to put Lawndale under immediate pressure. Cy Johnson, Keith Dinwiddie and Chris Zalaya added six each to put the exclamation on their multi-pronged offensive attack. The Cardinals countered with 15 points quickly lost ground under the fast-paced tempo.
The Centaurs used their three-point game to negate any rallies launched by Lawndale. Zalaya hit two threes in the first quarter while Willoughby and Jones added one each. Zalaya also converted a three in the second and third quarters. Dinwiddie and Brandon Libertore scored one three each in the third quarter. Tyler Wiley and Kenzi Bishara each contributed a three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
Morris on the multiple three-point attempts: "... as long as they're good shots, shots that the guys can make. I don't mind that they're taking them as long as long as it comes within the flow of the game."
Culver did most of its damage from the inside, hitting 68% on 23 of 34 two-point attempts for the game to help take a 54-30 halftime lead. Dinwiddie lit up the nets going eight for 11 inside the arc. Johnson powered in four of five shots and controlled the inside game. The team continued its fine shooting from the free throw line by hitting 15 of 18 attempts.
Dinwiddie led the team in scoring with 20 points. Jones had 15 and a team-leading six rebounds, Zalaya 14 points and Willoughby 10. Johnson and Tsalta Wainwright scored eight points each. Wiley and Libertore put in six each, Bishara had three while Savonn Shawver and Jaylen Cross each added two points. Culver converted 34 of 63 attempts from the field, good for 54%.
D.J. Gilmore was one-man wrecking crew for Lawndale as he scored a game-high 37 points. Gilmore scored 10 points in the first half before nailing 11 field goals in the second half including five three-point bombs for the game. He scored 17 of the Cardinals' 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Centaur defense otherwise held the rest of the team to 12 total field goals for the game.
Friday's game at Hawthorne was never a contest. Leading 29-7 after the first quarter, the Centaurs decimated the Cougars and shut them out 40-0 in the second quarter. The score increased to 98-19 after three quarters before both teams quietly ended the lopsided affair. In an otherwise very competitive Ocean League it seriously raises the question as to Hawthorne High's ability to compete even on a basic level.
The Culver boys need just one victory over either Santa Monica or Beverly Hills to clinch the Ocean League title this week. Both opponents have won or tied the league title for the last four seasons. Santa Monica has won the league championship outright six of the past ten seasons including five of the past six. Both games are considered toss-ups with the Centaurs not out of the woods yet.
"We just want to continue to play and close it out to win league championship," finished Morris. "That's our first goal and then to continue to get better so that when we go into playoffs we're improving constantly."