Culver City Observer -

By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Playoff Loss In Ventura Ends Season For Culver Boys


The City of Ventura was the end of the road for Culver City High boys basketball in 2018. The Centaurs never found their traction as they lost 80-61 to Buena High in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 3A Playoffs last Tuesday night, February 20.

Trailing 18-12 after the first quarter the Centaurs responded with 22 points in the second. The only problem was the Bulldogs also scoring 22 points in the quarter to lead at half, 40-34. Yet Culver City had to feel good trailing by only six points while not playing on all cylinders.

"Throughout the first half we were playing good but in the second Buena started hitting three's and we couldn't defend it," said Culver sophomore Keith Dinwiddie. "We were chasing but were missing our defensive assignments. But we were only down by six points, 40-34, at half."

"It was just on the defensive end we were lacking and that really hurt us. Offensively, we weren't hitting many outside shots. And when we got inside we weren't finishing the way we usually do. The majority of our shots came inside," said senior swingman Jaylen Cross.

"They weren't as aggressive to the rim as they were from the outside. Many of their points came from the three-point range. We are usually money down low but we were off. A lot of our shots went in and out. It was just an off-game for us.

However, the floodgates opened in the second half as Buena started hitting from the outside while converting 14 of 35 three-pointers for the game. The Centaurs never recovered as they were outscored 20-10 in the third quarter. Trailing by 16 going into the fourth quarter, the deficit and momentum never changed. The Culver boys were extremely disappointed in how the game and the season ended.

"We were down by 16 going into the fourth quarter," said junior guard Amyas Njoku. They had built a momentum throughout the game so it was hard to bring ourselves back and create our own energy after they had hit so many shots and got into a rhythm."

Freshman guard Tsalta Wainwright: "We just had an off-night. That was our worst game. That was their best game. That was our worst game. We just weren't hitting. We just didn't come in with the right mindset. We went out there and played lackadaisical. We should have won that game for sure."

The Centaurs will be graduating seven seniors from this breakout season: Ryan Willoughby, Tevian Jones, Justin Schenk, Cy Johnson, Chris Zalaya, Jaylen Cross and Brandon Libertore. Playing under first year head coach Reggie Morris, they were a major reason why Culver High won the Ocean League title for the first time in 32 years while completely revamping the culture of the boys basketball program going forward.

Jones led the team in scoring this season averaging 20.5 points per game. Johnson and Dinwiddie averaged in double figures with 11.3 and 10.6 points per game respectively. Jones hit 54% of his field goals, Johnson converted 52% and Dinwiddie knocked down 49% of his shots. Eight Centaurs averaged over 50% from the field during the season.

Wainwright averaged 9.6 points and led the team in three point conversions with 56, hitting 42% beyond the arc. Junior guard Ryan Blackmon scored 5.0 points per game, Zalaya with 4.1, Libertore at 2.7, Tyler Wiley and Kenzi Bishara averaged 2.1, Njoku with 1.9, Schenk at 1.3 and junior guard Savonn Shawver averaged 1.1 points per game.

"We didn't reach our full potential. We were capable of so much more than what we actually did accomplish," said Njoku. "We hadn't been league champions in 32 years. That was a goal we set and knew we were going to get that. It was a lot of work we put in. It just hurt really bad that we didn't reach our overall goal of winning CIF and State."

The future looks bright for the program as the young but talented squad now having the experience of a title season under their belt. "I wanted to at least get CIF Championship for our seniors. But we won league championship and hopefully started a legacy," said Wainwright.

"The goal for us was State Championship. But we made history by winning league for the first time in over 30 years. We just did good things and next year we'll do bigger things," said Dinwiddie.

Njoku: "It was our first year and it took some time to gel together. But like Jay said earlier, we were getting somewhere with it and really starting to become more than a team, like a family. It sucks the fact that we lost as we were really starting to come together. The season ended way to soon."


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