Road Wins Aid Culver Girls' Title hopes
February 8, 2018
Culver City High girls basketball keeps on ticking. More reliable than Timex, the 2018 Centaur girls are 20-4 and vying once again for the Ocean League title.
Road wins this past week over the Lawndale High Cardinals, 54-35, and Hawthorne High Cougars, 82-6, left them in first place. And with two games remaining their toughest challenges await: Santa Monica High and Beverly Hills High.
Last season the Centaur girls finished tied for second in league at 7-3 as Lawndale took the crown at 9-1. They had won five consecutive league titles with a combined 49-1 record over the previous five seasons. This season they're 8-0 in league, have won 13 out of their last 14 games. Notable is they have yet to reach their potential in terms of consistency and offensive execution.
"It's important for us to finish off and win these two last games and not just settle for one win out of two. And I think the girls want to do it," said Culver Head Coach Julian Anderson. "Against Lawndale we didn't play very well but we were able to grind through it."
Lawndale gave Culver a greater challenge than the first game when the Centaurs beat them earlier in the season, 62-38. The game started off well-enough for Culver City as they jumped out to a 21-7 first quarter lead. Lauren Jones scored eight points in the quarter including a three-pointer while Junie Dickson put in six.
Heaven Cooper added three free throws and Lindsey Kojima and Angel Morris hit a field goal each. The scoring bogged down for Culver in the second quarter but still held a 30-13 halftime lead with their typically stingy defense. Lawndale couldn't capitalize with only three of their players scoring in the half. In fact, only four Cardinals scored in the entire game.
A good sign was the Centaur role players contributing on the scoreboard. Alyse Hayes hit a three-pointer, Haley Yamamoto and Dickson added a bucket each. Leah Howard and Shana Moten each converted a free throw. In contrast, the Cardinal girls only scored six points in the quarter.
Things got a lot tighter in the third quarter when Lawndale made its push by scoring 18 points behind the efforts of Nalani Sampson who bombed in three three-pointers. Francesca Clemente added six points on three field goals while Summer Grant hit a basket and led all Lawndale scorers with 13 points. Culver led after three quarters 40-31.
"This season we've beat some solid teams and lost to some great teams: J. Serra, Serra Gardena and West Torrance," said Anderson. "Those are three quality losses as opposed to last year when we had some losses that just didn't make sense. We've only had one loss this season that shouldn't have happened."
The Centaur girls stemmed the tide in the final quarter as Morris led with six points. Jones scored five points including her second three-pointer, Cooper hit two free throws and Kojima added a free throw. Meanwhile, the Culver defense held the Lawndale girls to a pair of field goals.
Dickson led in scoring with 14 points on seven field goals. Jones dropped in 13 points, Morris dominated the boards and scored nine points, Hayes added six including two three-pointers, Cooper scored five points, Kojima three while Howard and Moten added one point each.
Anderson: "The mantra with us has been to take one day at a time and one thing at time. We want to get off to practice and preparing ourselves better for the next game."
The Centaurs' final two games will determine who wins the league title. Beverly Hills (7-1) remains one game behind in the league standings. The lone loss was a 48-46 heartbreaker at Culver High's Del Goodyear Gymnasium four games ago.
Santa Monica (4-4) gave Culver all it could handle in the previous game before being overwhelmed and dismissed in the fourth quarter during their 55-40 home loss. El Segundo (4-4), Lawndale (1-7) and Hawthorne (0-8) round out the Ocean League standings.
"Santa Monica is well-coached and they do a good job of putting in trap defenses and trying to disrupt our rhythm. It will get the girls to come out and play hard," said Anderson. "I'm hoping being at home will give us some type of confidence and get us ready to play."
"Beverly Hills is going to be a tough one. They've picked up a good assistant coach, a few key players and will be ready to play come Thursday. Our girls have grown a lot and there will be good things for this group if they can keep it together. If we stay healthy good things will happen."