Centaurs Basketball off to Strong Season Start
Wins Against Santa Monica, Lawndale Cap off First Week
January 16, 2020
After winning two down-to-the-wire games in the opening week of the 2019-20 Ocean League, Culver City High boys basketball is tied for first place with defending champion Beverly Hills High. The Centaurs edged out Santa Monica High, 43-41, last Wednesday night at home before going on the road to defeat Lawndale High, 69-66, in double overtime on Friday.
"We were coming off a hard preseason. Coming into league we wanted to get off on the right foot. Our kids saw that themselves as we had a lot of soul searching to do in the last month and a half," said head coach Roy Walker, Jr. "They just knew they had to get a win as it was our first home game of the season. We wanted to give the fans something to cheer about."
The Centaurs had a tough pre-league season schedule and dealt with a number of injuries as they compiled a 5-10 record going into Ocean League competition. They opened the preseason with three straight losses before winning five of their next six contests. They then lost the BUC Pride Classic championship game, 62-61, to Villa Park High in overtime. That began a five-game losing streak that stretched into the New Year.
"If you want to call yourself the best, you have to play the best. If you want to be ready for the end of February into March, you have to go play those games. You can't play schools you know you're going to beat just to pad up your record. That's the kind of culture we're trying to build with our kids," said Walker.
"We probably played nine out of the top 20 that might be in Open or Division 1 basketball. We've been in close games with those teams. We learned that we don't have to fumble any games. It was an uphill battle and a learning experience."
The two-point victory over Santa Monica was the kind of result Walker was referring to in taking on such a demanding early schedule. Culver City trailed by two points at halftime, 22-20, after the score was tied at 8-8 at the end of the first quarter. The Centaurs knocked down four 3-pointers to outscore the Vikings 14-8 in the third quarter to grab a 34-30 lead.
Quincy Lawson hit two from behind the arc while Tyler Wiley and Sean Newman, Jr. each hit one 3-pointer in the quarter. Newman continued his pace by scoring all nine Centaur points in the fourth quarter to counter and outlast three 3-point shots by Santa Monica. The Vikings missed four free throws in the final quarter, the difference in the game.
Newman led all scorers with 22 points. He hit six field goals, three of them from long range, and converted five free throws. Lawson added nine points with three 3-point bombs, Abraham Abdul-Salem nailed a long shot and two free throws for seven points and Wiley put in five points to round out the team scoring.
Walker: "It was an emotional game against a crosstown rival and our best player was at Santa Monica last year. It was high emotions for Sean Newman, Jr. and our team rallied around him. So he held his emotions in check. He's learning how to lead and getting better every game at it."
The three-point win at Lawndale was a back and forth barnburner that saw the Centaurs take an early lead, fall behind, tie at the end of regulation, go down by seven points in the first overtime before sending into the second conclusive overtime period.
"They (Lawndale) were at home so they had a lot of energy and made a run. We went down late in the fourth but our kids weathered the storm. We also went down seven in the first overtime but we battled back and showed perseverance and that the preseason schedule built them for league," said Walker.
Going into the second week of Ocean League basketball the Centaurs will host El Segundo High this Wednesday and Hawthorne High on Friday. Culver City and Beverly Hills lead the league with 2-0 records. El Segundo and Santa Monica are tied for third with 1-1 records while Lawndale and Hawthorne are both so far winless in league with 0-2 records.
"El Segundo and Hawthorne should be two tough games. Our league is very competitive so it's a really fun time during our season," said Walker. Last year the Centaurs made it to CIF Playoffs with Coach Walker, his first season as the varsity head coach. Starting off the Ocean League with two wins is a fine first step in returning to the postseason beginning in mid-February.
"Our three best players: Quincy Lawson, Tyler Wiley and Sean Newman... they're seniors and we lean on them to do a lot on and off the court. And they do. It was challenging at first but they're answering the challenge and stepping up hard.