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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
LOS ANGELES-For five straight seasons, the Cerritos and Downey High boys basketball teams have met under the bright lights of Staples Center in a non league contest. And each time, the result has been the same, which hasn’t fared well for Cerritos.
The Dons found themselves down by as many as 16 points early in the second half, rallied to take a brief lead in the fourth quarter, then saw it go away in the final seconds when Downey’s Justin Reyes hit a key basket with 22.2 seconds left as the Vikings came away with a 47-44 win last Friday afternoon. The game was a far cry from the 67-30 Downey win over Cerritos just one week prior in the North Orange County Championships. But this time, it was Reyes who was dominant in the fourth quarter, scoring seven of his team’s 12 points in the final stanza.
“He made a big shot; a really good shot,” said Cerritos co-head coach Kevin Enomoto. “They have some good shooters. I think it was [junior] Brandon [de Groot] guarding him and he had his hand in his face and he still knocked down that shot. The way Brandon played defense on him was perfect. It’s exactly how we want to play defense.”
After falling behind 5-0 within the first 48 seconds, the Dons tied the game courtesy of junior Jyvonnte Moore who scored all five points. The Vikings would then go on an 8-0 run before a three-pointer from senior Jason Fernandez closed out the first quarter scoring.
Downey dominated the second quarter, scoring the final seven points of the half to lead 26-13 at the break. Downey’s Aaron Garcia then scored the first three points of the third quarter before Cerritos began to chip away at its deficit.
Junior Destin Flucas was a big part of that rally, scoring nine points and grabbing three rebounds in the third quarter alone. He scored consecutive baskets in a span of 49 seconds, the first after getting an offensive rebound, as the Dons trailed 33-24 with 4:18 left in the third quarter. Cerritos would finish the final 3:20 of the stanza on an 8-0 run to trail by three points heading into the fourth.
Garcia would sink a pair of free throws to extend Downey’s lead to 38-32 with 5:58 left in the game. But Cerritos had another run and after de Groot scored off a pass from junior Jason Anigbo, he scored on his only steal with just over four minutes remaining to put the Dons in front for the first time, 39-38.
“They started playing defense,” Enomoto said of the second half. “They started battling and they started getting rebounds. We were giving up a lot of offensive boards and that doesn’t help.”
Less than half a minute later, junior Byron Sur hit two free throws to make it a 41-39 contest. After Reyes scored on one of 18 Cerritos turnovers to put the Vikings ahead at 43-41, Flucas tied the contest with 89 seconds remaining in the game. But with 1:10 remaining, a Reyes basket proved to be the eventual game-winner.
Flucas and Moore each scored 13 points to lead the Dons with Flucas grabbing seven rebounds and Moore another five boards. Sur was also solid with half a dozen points and just as many rebounds.
“Both players play very hard,” Enomoto said of Flucas and Moore. “They’re kind of like our engine that gets us going, getting those rebounds. They’re able to get rebounds from other guys to help other guys get open. Byron is another player who gets us going and gets our offense going. If he’s playing well, then the rest of our players are playing well.”
Of the five games that Cerritos has played at Staples Center, and always falling on a day in which the Los Angeles Clippers are at home later in the night, this was closest in terms of margin of defeat by the Dons. Last season, Downey won by eight points and the season before, it was a 10-point Downey win. In addition, each school sold close to $8,000 in tickets for the Clippers game against the Dallas Mavericks prior to last Friday’s game. Yet to be determined will be if Cerritos comes back to downtown Los Angeles next season.
“Oh, it’s a great opportunity,” Enomoto said. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids and the families that get to come watch them play inside this nice arena. We really wanted to get them today.”
Cerritos began action in the Mt. Carmel Tournament in San Diego with a 76-55 win over Mira Mesa High this past Tuesday and met Downey the next night. The win over the Marauders was just the third for the Dons in the first 12 games this season. Cerritos will begin Suburban League action on Jan. 6 at Artesia High.
“We’ve been playing some pretty good teams, especially in the last tournament,” Enomoto said. “But it’s a process for us. We’re kind of a young team; no starters returning from last year. So, our goal this year was not to worry about wins and losses, but more as far as are we playing the right way? We have to make sure we’re playing the right way offensively and defensively. That’s what we’re doing. I think we’re in the right direction.”