In its previous meeting against Santa Monica, lights out shooting is what led the Culver City High girls basketball team to victory. On Wednesday night, however, rebounding and second-chance points are what enabled the Centaurs to escape with a 48-43 road victory and remain undefeated in Ocean League play.
Jade Neal scored 22 points, Lunden Junious added eight points and Taylor Tanita finished with four points, three assists and two steals for the Centaurs (16-7 overall, 7-0 in league), who host second-place Inglewood on Friday, then close out the regular season against Hawthorne and archrival Beverly Hills next week.
"That was a hard one," Culver City Coach Julian Anderson said. "We played hard and continued to play all the way through and played as a group. We got into a zone and that flustered them a lot because they really got us in the first half."
Santa Monica raced to a 9-2 lead in the first 3:55 with Aniese Palmore scoring on four dribble-drive layups and Paige Onouye making a free throw. Culver City crept to within 9-7 on Neal's free throw with 1:47 left in the quarter, then tied the game 9-9 on Neal's 10-foot jumper with 28 seconds remaining in the quarter.
Neal gave Culver City its first lead, 14-13, on a reverse layup with 5:42 left in the second quarter. Santa Monica retook the lead at 17-16, but Tanita ran the clock down, drove the lane and scored a layup with four seconds left to give the Centaurs an 18-17 halftime lead.
"This is how we plan on going out -undefeated - so I'm pretty happy about it," said Junious, whose team won the first encounter 69-60 at Goodyear Gym. "We started out on the defensive side low on the intensity level and we kind of picked it up in the second quarter... thus the outcome."
Palmore's steal and layup just before the buzzer pulled Santa Monica within a point, 31-30, at the end of the third quarter. Palmore led the Vikings with 27 points - most of them on driving layups.
Culver City began the fourth quarter on fire, opening up a 10-point lead on a three-point play by Junious and three-point baskets by Lindsay Terada and Jade Neal.
Despite post player Cheyenne De Los Reyes fouling out with 5:02 to go, however, the home team didn't fold, cutting its deficit to 47-43 on Onouye's three-pointer with four seconds left. Tanita was fouled immediately and made the first of two free throws to provide the final margin. Culver City collected 34 rebounds in 32 minutes.
"It's a loss that hurt because we came into the game believing we could win and we got off to an early lead," Samo Coach Marty Verdugo said. "Aniese [Palmore] got in foul trouble and when they went to the zone it really slowed us down. The deciding factor, though, was that we gave them way too many second, third, and fourth chances on rebounds. They probably scored three quarters of their points after a miss."
Despite 27 points from Aamahd Walker (including three three-pointers) and 16 points from Keilan Horton, the Centaurs (12-11, 3-4) were unable to hold onto a 17-point second-quarter lead and fell 69-62 to host Santa Monica, which stayed tied for first place with defending champion Inglewood.
A layup by guard Chris Sanchez gave Culver City a 31-14 lead with 2:24 left in the first half, but the Vikings ended the second quarter on a 10-0 run and closed to within 31-24 at halftime.
Santa Monica carried its momentum into the third quarter, chipping away at the deficit and finally taking the lead, 43-41, on Jordan Walker's driving left-handed layup at the 2:49 mark.
"This game was disappointing to me," said Centaurs senior center Isaiah Taylor, who finished with 11 points. "We came out with the intensity we needed. I tried to play as hard as I could but Aamahd and Keilan didn't have any help and I got fouled out again. I thought we could've been more aggressive and played harder in the second half, but they wanted it more and got the 'W.'"
Spencer Cramer scored a season-high 17 points and Jordan Mathews added 15 for host Santa Monica, which opened a 57-45 lead early in the fourth quarter on Mathews' reverse layup. Taylor fouled out with 2:20 left and the Centaurs down by 10. Horton's steal and basket got Culver City to within 67-62 with less than 45 seconds to play but the Centaurs got no closer.
"They were the better team and we had trouble stopping their penetration," Culver City Coach Jon Chapman said. "You can't coach height. We had to be more physical and even when we had that big lead we settled for too many outside shots."
Culver City hosts Inglewood on Friday and wraps up Ocean League play next week at home Tuesday against Hawthorne and at archrival Beverly Hills on Thursday.
GIRLS WATER POLO
Karen Duenas scored four goals, Kristina Miranda scored three goals and Aurora Madrigal and Ruth Basurto each added one as Culver City beat Torrance 9-6 on Tuesday. Amanda Duval made 11 saves for the Centaurs (16-3, 4-3).