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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

With A Late Season Loss Culver Girls Must Share league Title


February 15, 2018

Recapturing the girls basketball Ocean League title was a bittersweet affair for Culver City High. The Centaurs were undefeated and in sole possession of first place before losing a tough road grind to Beverly Hills High, 48-46, in the final league game of the season.

The loss left the Culver girls tied with Beverly for the 2018 league championship, each finishing with a 9-1 record.

Coincidentally, Culver beat Beverly weeks earlier by the same score. In that game they rallied to beat the Normans in the fourth quarter. At Beverly High they rallied late again, took the lead but failed to hold it as the Normans outlasted them with clutch shots and conversions at the free throw line.

Two days earlier, February 6, Culver City easily took care of rival Santa Monica High, 60-15, at home. The Centaurs were expecting a much tougher battle as the Vikings kept the game close in their first matchup several weeks ago at SaMoHi before Culver pulled away late to win, 55-40.

The Culver girls (21-5 overall) now prepare to host a very good Crossroads High (18-9 overall) team on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Round 1 of the CIF Southern Section Division 3AA Playoffs. On a side note: it's difficult to understand what the CIF Girls Basketball Playoff selection committee was thinking by scheduling two well-ranked teams against each other in the first round.

"We're just trying to take care of each day. Practice comes first. And whenever the next day is, we try to get better every day. That's something we have to do with two more practices before Thursday's playoff game," said Culver head coach Julian Anderson.

"The Santa Monica game was weird. They played us real tough the first time around. I kind of expected a little more because they have a good coach who knows how to coach them up. But we did fairly well and the girls were ready."

The rout was on from the start against Santa Monica. Culver led after one quarter 15-4 as the Vikings failed to hit a single field goal. All four points scored came from the free throw line. Angel Morris, with seven points on three field goals and a free throw and Junie Dickson with five points jumpstarted the Centaurs immediately.

Culver outscored SaMo by 10 more points in the second quarter as the lead grew to 31-10 at half. Hayes poured in three three-pointers to score eight points in the quarter. Haley Yamamoto also drilled a three-pointer.

The Centaur defense tightened, allowing the Viking girls only five points total for the second half. Meanwhile, Culver opened up the floodgates by scoring 24 in the third quarter. Dickson led in scoring with 19 points, including two three-pointers in the third quarter.

Morris dominated the glass on both ends of the court while scoring 14 points. Hayes added 11 points, Lindsey Kojima scored seven points including a three-pointer. Yamamoto and Jones each had three points, Leah Howard and Heaven Cooper scored two points each while Shelby Montez converted a free throw to round out the scoring.

"There were some games this year where we played absolutely well. Defensively very, very well. Defensively very well. There were some games we put the whole package together and looked good," said Anderson.

"Then we turned around and dropped one to Beverly. We had a lead in the last quarter. A tale of two stories: we do really well with possessions to get up by five, then we rest on our laurels, look up and we're losing again. We just didn't execute toward the end."

The Centaurs got off to a slow start at Beverly Hills scoring only six points in the first quarter as the Vikings led 12-6. Morris scored four points and Cooper added two. Beverly continued to lead at halftime, 21-14. Dickson scored five points in the second quarter and Hayes added a three-pointer.

Culver made a concerted effort in the third quarter, reducing the deficit to four points. But the Vikings pushed back keeping the scoring margin at seven, 34-27, by the end of the quarter. The Centaurs scraped back to tie the score at 36-36 as Morris was fouled on a driving layup to score an and-one with 5:47 in the game. At 5:03 Hayes' third three pointer of the game put Culver in lead at 39-36.

Culver led 41-38 with 3:05 on the clock. Beverly regained a 42-41 lead at 2:10. The margin held with Beverly leading 45-42 with 16.5 seconds remaining. Following intentional fouls and exchange of free throws the score was 48-43. Lauren Jones hit a deep three-point attempt with three seconds on the game clock in vain. Beverly Hills had secured a tie for first place in the Ocean League.

The Centaurs are preparing to take on Crossroads High in Thursday's playoff game. The Roadrunners roster includes NBA great Shaquille O'Neal's daughter, 6'1" sophomore center Amirah O'Neal. The Roadrunners play in the highly-competitive Gold Coast League featuring girl basketball powers: Windward, Sierra Canyon and Brentwood School. It's as tough of a first round playoff game as they come.

Anderson: "We talked about it today. We take it one day at a time, really. We don't want to look ahead. We want to take care of today. That includes each and every single day, what you eat and how you go to bed. That's always the goal, even in regular season."


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