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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Culver Boys Are League Champions


February 15, 2018

Culver City High boys basketball captured the 2018 Ocean League championship last Tuesday, February 6 when they defeated archrival Santa Monica High, 78-67, at Del Goodyear Gymnasium. It was the first league title for the Centaurs in decades.

However, the Culver boys bid to go undefeated in league was denied as they lost at Beverly Hills High, 56-53, two nights later. Culver City finished with a 9-1 league record. Beverly Hills ended in second place at 8-2, Santa Monica in third at 9-1, El Segundo and Lawndale tied for fourth with 3-7 records with Hawthorne winless and in last place at 0-10.

The Centaurs now prepare for the CIF Southern Section Division 3A Playoffs as they host Glendale High at 7 p.m. this Wednesday night. Culver (16-9 overall) is seeded No. 2 in the division playoff bracket with an excellent chance of advancing deep into the tournament. The Glendale Nitros (18-9 overall) finished 6-8 in the tough Pacific League featuring basketball powers Pasadena and Muir.

Tuesday's game against Santa Monica lived up to the hype. Both teams took their best shots throughout in a game that was decided in the final minutes. Culver took a 20-17 lead after the first quarter.

Freshman Tsalta Wainwright immediately came out firing by knocking down three three-pointers in the opening quarter.

Sophomore Keith Dinwiddie scored eight points including a three while senior Ryan Willoughby added three.

The Centaurs outscored the Vikings 22-18 in the second quarter to take a close 42-35 lead at halftime. Senior Tevian Jones started to get warmed up pouring in 11 points in the quarter including three three-point bombs to keep SaMo at bay. Dinwiddied added four points, Wainwright hit another three-pointer and senior Cyrus Johnson added two points.

The Vikings upped the ante in the third quarter, outscoring Culver 16-10 to reduce the deficit to one point, 52-51. Dinwiddie scored five points in the third, Johnson put in four and junior Ryan Blackmon added a free throw. The packed bleachers were amped up for the fourth quarter as Santa Monica had the momentum.

Centaur Head Coach Reggie Morris huddled with his players and they responded. Culver's two bigs: Jones and Johnson were too much for SaMoHi to handle in the fourth. Jones hit a three-pointer, nailed three field goals and three free throws to score 12 points in the quarter. Johnson was banging the glass on both ends of the court while putting in four field goals and three free throws points for 11 points.

Senior Jaylen Cross hit a field goal and Dinwiddie converted a free throw to round out the scoring. It was a balanced offensive attack that seized the day for Culver. Jones led with 21 total points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Dinwiddie scored 18, Johnson put in 17 with six rebounds and Wainwright scored 14. Willoughby had three points, Cross and Brandon Libertore put in two each while Blackmon scored one.

The Centaurs' accurate shooting was the difference. They combined for 19 of 33 two-point field goals, 10 of 19 three-pointers for a 56% overall shooting percentage.

The game two nights later at Beverly Hills was a different ballgame. The Centaurs converted only 34% of their total shots: 19 of 41 from inside the arc and a miserable two of 21 three-point attempts. It was too much of a heavy burden in a three-point loss.

The Normans jumped out to a 14-11 lead in the first quarter. The defense for both teams picked up in second quarter but Beverly still held a 10-8 advantage for the quarter. They held a tenuous 24-19 lead at half, Culver's lowest scoring output for the first half in league play this season. Morris gathered his troops and they responded again.

The Centaurs kept the pressure up throughout the second half. Yet they only outscored the Normans 17-15 in the third quarter. A 31-20 deficit in the opening minutes of the quarter didn't help. Culver cut the lead to 33-30 at 3:31. Johnson's two free throws made the deficity 39-36 at the end of the third quarter. Another nail-biter was in the works.

Johnson's jumper kept the score at 41-38 with 5:37 left in the game. Beverly put in two quick threes for a 45-38 lead at 4:43. Coach Morris called a timeout but the Normans increased their lead to 48-38 at 4:11. Dinwiddie hit a pair of free throws to make it 48-40 with 4:02 on the clock. Jones reduced the lead to 50-47 at 2:04 with two free throws.

Blackmon brought the Centaurs to within one point with a bigtime rebound and putback. The home Beverly crowd grew silent as the visiting Culver fans got louder. The Normans put in two free throws. Jones maneuvered across the lane and put in a short jump hook to make it 52-51, Beverly with one minute remaining in the game.

Culver City finally took the lead at 53-52 with 41.4 seconds on the clock. Jones put up a short runner, Johnson crashed the offensive boards and Dinwiddie muscled in a put-back off the glass. The Normans called timeout. The Centaurs then denied Beverly an easy path to the basket. Unfortunately for Culver, a foul was called on a forced loose ball.

The Normans hit both free throws for a 54-53 lead with 23.3 seconds on the clock. Following a timeout the Centaurs committed a turnover. Two more Beverly free throws put them up 56-53 with 12.8 seconds to go. The last few seconds were frantic with Culver putting up an unsuccessful three-pointer. A mad dash to put up a final shot never materialized.

The Culver City boys were visibly disappointed by not completing a perfect Ocean League record in 2018. But their relentless fight gave them hope as the CIF Playoffs begin this Wednesday at home against Glendale High.

For the team it was a dramatic turn-around under new head coach Reggie Morris. The school has never witnessed their boys basketball program perform to such a standard in its history. It was one heck of a season... with much more to com


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