It took the Culver City High girls basketball team a while to get going Saturday night, but once it did there was no stopping the Centaurs, who rolled to a 62-37 victory over Placentia El Dorado in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2A playoffs.
Culver City trailed by two points after the first eight minutes, but outscored the Golden Hawks 22-8 in the second quarter to take a 32-20 lead at the break. In the second half, the sixth-seeded Centaurs (20-7) clamped down on defense, giving up only 17 points and not allowing a single three-pointer.
"These games are nerve-racking," Centaurs Coach Julian Anderson said. "They came out in a 1-1-3 and I thought that was a good gameplan for them. It took us some time to figure it out. El Dorado plays really hard and I'm proud that we played hard and stuck with it the whole game."
El Dorado's unconventional defense rendered the Centaurs' offense out of sync in the first quarter.
"It was something we don't really see everyday, so we had to adjust a lot to it," said center Mithzy Hernandez, who grabbed eight rebounds. "But in the end, we were able to get through their defense, pass the ball and score a lot easier."
Sophomore guard Kelsey Ueda led the way with 15 points, senior forward Lunden Junious had 12 points and 10 rebounds, senior point guard Taylor Tanita had 12 points and seven assists and Misaki Nakagawa score eight points off the bench for Culver City, which travels south to Riverside to play 11th-seeded Arlington in the second round Wednesday. The Lions (19-9), finished second in the Inland Valley League and beat Oak Hills 54-39 in the first round.
"We knew we had to come out with good defense and move our feet because defense wins games. The offense came to us after good defense," Neal said. "I think I took too many outside shots, I was rushing my shots and I should've drove on them because they were standing still."
Jaylin Jones scored 14 points, Shelby Unger had 11 and Brooke Salas added seven for El Dorado (11-16), which finished sixth out of seven teams in the Century League and was awarded an at-large berth into the playoffs. Culver City drained seven three-pointers--two each by Ueda, Tanita and Nakagawa and one by freshman guard Katie Lin.
"I was a little bit nervous because it was my first playoff game, but once I got out there I just got into the game mode and it was exciting," Lin said. "We've been working really hard in practice so we're in really good shape and we're not too tall so we have to use our quickness, especially against the taller teams."
The Culver City-Arlington winner will meet either third-seeded Camarillo or 14th-seeded Moorpark in the quarterfinals Saturday, Feb 25.
"We started off strong and we ended strong, so it was good," Ueda said. "We don't know the other team so we had to kind of figure out what defense they play. Once we figured that out we changed up our defense, played better and won."
Anderson knows his Ocean League championship team will need to play better in each successive round: "I'm anticipating it to be a whole lot harder and a whole lot tighter. As we move further into the playoffs it's going to get tougher and tougher so I'm anticipating a tougher game."
CIF-SS DIVISION 2A FIRST ROUND
Score by Quarters
89 37 Culver City