Centaurs Basketball Split Games in CIF Playoffs

Culver City High boys basketball tried to dig out of a hole for the second consecutive playoff game. But it was a bit too deep as the Centaurs lost 69-60 to Crescenta Valley High on Tuesday, February 12 at home in Del Goodyear Gymnasium in Round 2 of the 2019 CIF Division 2A Playoffs.

Last Friday night the Centaurs overcame a 16-point deficit to win a 70-67 overtime thriller at West Torrance High. They trailed 43-27 at halftime before storming back to tie the score in regulation, 61-61, in the opening round of the playoffs. It was an emotional victory that may have taken a toll against Crescenta Valley.

“West is well-coached. They were not easily frazzled when they were down by 12 points at the beginning of the game. They’re very good shooters and fought for a lot of loose balls that we normally get. That was a factor in them being ahead by 16 points in the first half,” said Culver City head coach Roy Walker, who earned a victory in his first playoff game coaching the Centaurs.

“Going into the second half we had to dig down deep and find the will to win. One of my mentors, Sid Martin, came in and spoke to the players at halftime. I asked my players if this is how they wanted the season to end and they answered the count.”

Crescenta Valley was a different story. The Falcons grabbed an early lead and never let go as the Centaurs never had the lead. Culver City trailed 12-4 after the first quarter as numerous drives to the rim and open outside shots just wouldn’t fall. Ryan Blackmon scored all four points on a field goal and two free throws.

The Centaurs used balanced scoring to open the offense as they scored 16 points in the second quarter. The only problem was the Falcons scoring 19 points in the quarter to lead 31-20 at half. Quincy Lawson hit a pair of 3-pointers and Tyler Wiley added long bomb. Blackmon, Amyas Njoku, Shamar Carter and Mike Bunton added two points each for the quarter.

The third quarter was a copy of the second quarter. The Centaurs would cut the deficit only to have the Falcons hit from deep range as they knocked down four 3-pointers. Tyler Carlson hit the Centaurs hard with 13 points in the quarter including two 3-pointers. Their lead increased to 52-39 with Culver still within striking distance.

The lead grew to 15 points but the Centaurs rallied to trail by eight, 60-52, with 3:33 remaining in regulation. They never got closer as they were forced to foul to extend the clock while Crescenta Valley kept making free throws to seal Culver City’s fate. The Centaurs finished with an 18-12 record for the season.

Offensively, Wiley and Njoku led in scoring with 14 points each. Lawson scored 10 points, Blackmon put in eight while Carter added six points. Kenzi Bishara hit a 3-pointer. Bunton and Emari Pait both added two points.

Four days earlier the Centaurs were able to force overtime by outscoring West High, 34-18, in the second half. Blackmon took over in the third quarter scoring 11 points but Culver still trailed, 51-42. After trading baskets through the fourth the Centaurs made a run with a few minutes to go. Blackmon scored 12 fourth-quarter points including the tying layup with seconds remaining.

“Ryan came out and set the tone on defense in the second half. That really helped us out. Amyas was great getting the ball in the paint. It was a great team effort. Shamar played great in the third quarter. He kept us afloat with big shots and big blocks and including one that changed the whole tide of the game,” said Walker.

He described the play that set up Blackmon’s tying layup. “We lined up in a press and still in our full-court man coverage. Ryan and I looked at each other and made eye contact that he was going to double team the ball. Ryan got his hand on the inbound pass, was able to scoop it up and steal it.”

West and Culver both led in overtime. But the Centaurs were able to put the game away with four free throws a field goal by Njoku and a 3-pointer by Carter to win by three points. Blackmon led all scorers with 29 points. Njoku poured in 12 points, Lawson scored 10 points and Carter had eight including two 3-pointers. Wiley added six and Bishara scored five points.

“My players had their mojo going. I didn’t really have to say anything. During those times in games I don’t really say much. They recoup themselves. I was elated and over-joyed with the emotional victory.”


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