Boys Basketball Lose to SaMo and Beverly Hills
Tough Week but Early in the Season
January 30, 2020
Culver City High boys basketball fought hard, rallied late but had a slight setback in Ocean League action last week on the road against two league powers, Beverly Hills High and Santa Monica High. The Centaurs lost 55-40 to Beverly Hills last Wednesday, January 22 and were just edged, 63-60, by Santa Monica two night later.
"It was a tough week. In our league anybody can beat anybody," said head coach Roy Walker. "We have a split with SaMo now, so we just have to split with Beverly. We're still in contention for the title and that's our main goal. We'll stay focused and make sure that we manifest that and make it happen."
The Centaurs entered the week undefeated and one game ahead first place with a 4-0 record. They are now in third place with a 4-2 league record and one game behind Beverly and SaMo, both tied for first with 5-1 records. Lawndale High and El Segundo High are tied for fourth place with 2-4 records while Hawthorne High is in sixth with an 0-6 record.
All teams have four league games remaining with Culver City still facing a rematch at home in the last game against Beverly Hills in two weeks. The Centaurs put themselves into a hole against the Normans in the first contest as they fell behind 14-6 after the first quarter. They cut the lead to 20-16 in the second quarter but a 10-2 Normans run had Culver trailing at halftime, 30-18.
The Centaurs made scored 12 more points in the third quarter but the Normans added 11 as the deficit remained in double digits going into the final quarter, 41-30. Guard James Pak opened the fourth quarter with a three-point shot as Culver scored 20 for their best quarter. But the Normans countered with six three-point conversions to put the game out of reach.
Coach Walker: "We cut the lead down to six, five but just couldn't get over the hump. Now we're focused on this week and trying to win out the rest of the league."
The Centaurs leading scorer Sean Newman, Jr. scored 18 points for the game including converting all 12 free throws. Tyler Wiley had five field goals and scored 12 total points. Darwin Balthazar scored seven points including one three-pointer. Quincy Lawson added five points, Quentin Estime scored four points, Pak scored three and Tyrese Cross added a field goal to round out the scoring.
Culver City fell even further behind very early in Friday night's match against rival Santa Monica as the Vikings were seeking revenge for their earlier season loss to the Centaurs, 43-41. They trailed 20-11 after one quarter and following a Viking blitz the score was 35-11 midway through the second quarter. The Centaurs responded with a 12-4 rally to trail 39-23 at halftime.
"Against SaMo we cut the lead to 16 at half. I told my players to just chip away and cut the lead four points at a time. And they did it," said Walker. "Against the larger teams we work hard, create turnovers and make sure we maximize every possession that we have. We try to steal extra possessions and it works out for us at times."
The Centaurs had their most productive stretch in the third quarter. Lawson nailed two 3-pointers and one field goal. Pak added his second three of the game, Cross added a field goal while Newman, Jr. scored seven points. They held SaMo to 12 points in the quarter to only trail 51-43 going into the fourth quarter.
Culver City kept whittling away and cut the deficit to 57-52 with 3:28 remaining. Lawson added his third three of the game and Wiley also hit from behind the arc. Wiley scored on layup, reducing the deficit to three points with 3:02 on the clock. At 2:20 Newman, Jr. drove the lane, converted the shot off the glass as he was fouled and made the free-throw to tie the score at 57-57.
Walker: "We tell our kids: "Burn out two, three minutes. Gives us what you got and let us know when it's time to come out." And they've adopted that, use it, do that and they love it. So it's our style of play and how we handle things."
It was one of the more memorable rallies against a quality opponent in the program's history. The Vikings retook the lead, 58-57, with a free throw at 2:05. The Centaurs had a chance to take the lead but an either/or foul call on the offensive end denied them. The Vikings outscored the Centaurs from the free throw final minutes to eek out the victory.
Newman, Jr. led the team in scoring with 20 points on six field goals and eight free throws. Wiley had 13 points including three 3-pointers. Lawson also converted three 3-pointers and scored 11 points. Pak had eight points and two 3-pointers. Cross and Balthazar and Abraham Abdulsalem scored four points each
"My players fought hard but a couple of plays didn't go our way. We just have to take it as playoff time. Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose," said Walker. "I'm super satisfied with the way the kids are playing. I tell them all the time: "Our record doesn't reflect who we are as a team. We're a really good basketball team." But the last two games just didn't go our way.
The Centaurs host the Lawndale this Wednesday night, January 29, at 7:30 in Del Goodyear Gymnasium. They beat the Cardinals in double overtime a few weeks ago, 69-66, as Newman, Jr. went off, scoring 46 points to go along with 10 steals and six assists. The team travels to El Segundo on Friday, looking to sweep as they handily beat the Eagles, 73-37, at Culver City on January 15. Looming on the horizon with the is the rematch with Beverly Hills on February 6 at home and possibly determining the league title.