Serra High's boys' and girls' basketball teams are both among the tops in the CIF-Southern Section Division IVAA polls and they both closed out the pre-Del Rey League action with victories.
Last Saturday, the Cavaliers hosted their own Serra Cavalier Classic at Cerritos College and pulled through for a 75-62 win over a determined Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula High team.
On Monday at Serra, the defending California State Division IV champion Lady Cavaliers pulled away from Ocean League power and last year's Southern Section Division IIA runner-up Culver City 70-55.
The Lady Cavaliers jumped on the Centaurs leading by as many as 19 points in the first half and took a 40-27 lead at halftime.
The third quarter saw Serra in a brief cold spell and Culver got back into the game behind three-point baskets by Kelsey Ueda and Kate Lin, along with six points by Playa del Rey St. Bernard transfer Michelle Curry to get as close as six points.
Later in the third period, the Cavaliers got things back things restored and took a 49-39 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Culver, again, got as close as eight points with about 5:30 left before Serra pulled away for the 15-point victory, its 12th in 14 games.
"Culver City did a great job," Serra head coach McKenzie Hadley said. "The problem was that we missed 15 free throws. It's usally the free throws and lay-ups that win games. Overall, it was a good game. Both teams played hard."
Nautica Morrow led all scorers with 17 points for the Cavaliers. Chyanne Butler, one of three transfers from St. Bernard (which had its premiere head coach Bo Corona dismissed after last season's Southern California Division IV finalist squad that lost to Serra in the regional finals on March 16 at Colony High in Ontario and now is head mentor at Lawndale Leuzinger High), added 16 points and returning all-CIF Southern Section Division IVAA player Caila Hailey chipped in 12. Morrow also had four steals. Butler tallied six rebounds, four assists and four steals. Hailey pulled down six rebounds, but it was Kayla Bibb that led Serra on the boards with 14 rebounds.
Ueda led the Centaurs (11-4) with 14 points, followed by Lin and Curry with 13 apiece.
Serra is currently the top ranked team in the Southern Section Division IVAA and is one of 30 Southern Section teams on the Open Division watch list. For the first time, there will be a Southern Section Open Division for the most elite teams. The California State CIF already began the Open Division last season with Oakland Bishop O' Dowd defeating Mar Vista Windward (which downed Serra 85-57 for the Southern Section Division IV crown last year) in the final.
Santa Ana Mater Dei won the boys state open division over San Jose Archbishop Mitty 50-45.
Culver City is eighth in the Southern Section Division IIAA. The Lady Centaurs appear to be favorites for their third consecutive Ocean League crown.
The Centaurs have home games against Inglewood Morningside Wednesday and Santa Monica Friday, both beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Two days earlier at Fairfax High, Serra captured the title with a 69-52 victory over the host Lions.
Butler led the Cavaliers with 23 points, six rebounds and seven assists as Serra pulled away from Fairfax by outscoring the Lions 40-23 in the second half. She was the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Morrow totaled 10 points and Hailey tallied nine points, all on three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Fairfax was led by Marguerite Effa with a game-high 24 points.
Serra begins the Del Rey League with an interesting one at St. Bernard tonight at 7 p.m. That will be a game return by Viking transfers Butler, Brooke Bayman and Cydney Bolton.
Perhaps an even bigger game for the Cavaliers will be a non-league one in the War on the Floor Extravaganza against another IVAA power, Westlake Village Oaks Christian, on Saturday at a time to be determined at St. Genevieve High in Panorama City.
In boys' action on Saturday, Serra led most of the way against Peninsula, but the Panthers came back and led by five (50-45) late in the third quarter behind a 9-0 run that included a three-point play by Matt Oh and a paor of lay-ups by Peninsula's 6-foot-8 center Stanley Roberts, Jr., son of former NBA Los Angeles Clippers star Stanley Roberts, Sr.
The Cavaliers, though, came back as Jason Richardson scored the next six points to give them a 51-50 edge by the end of the third period.
The Panthers continued to stay with Serra for the first couple of minutes of the fourth period but Ron Freeman's two slam dunks led the Cavaliers to a 12-2 run that virtually put the game away for them.
"I thought we played well at times," Serra head coach Dwan Hurt said. "Peninsula played well and capitalized on our own mistakes. They are a very well disciplined team."
Tavrion Dawson led the Cavaliers with a game-high 24 points. Richardson put in 19 points, 14 of those in the second half. Freeman had 14 points.
The Panthers (6-10) were led by Roberts with 22 points. Junior guard Kurt Milch contributed 12 points and Mickey Babek chipped in 11.
Serra begins the Del Rey League at home against Pasadena La Salle Friday at 7 p.m.
The Cavaliers, then, will play in two Martin Luther King, Jr. Classics at La Salle on Saturday and against host Price Christian in South L.A. on Monday at 7 p.m.
Serra, then, will have a showdown at league rival Bishop Montgomery in Torrance on Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. The Knights sport a 14-1 record and are the top ranked team in the Southern Section Division IVAA, while the Cavaliers are second. Both are also on the Southern Section Open Division watch list.
Peninsula begins the league with a bang at Bay League favorite and defending state Division II champion Redondo tonight at 7:30 p.m. Currently, the Sea Hawks are the top ranked team in the Southern Section Division IIAA, fifth in California and are on the Southern Section Open Division watch list. The game should be a good match-up between two 6-foot-8 centers on the Panthers' Roberts and Redondo's Terrell Carter, who transferred from West Torrance High over last summer.
Also at Saturday's Cavalier Classic, Westchester won the night's finale over CIF-Sac Joaquin Division I power Sheldon High from Sacramento 77-55.
The win gave head Comet coach Ed Azzam his 758th win, when many thought that he was on the verge of getting his 803rd coaching win to break the CIF-Los Angeles City Section record of 802 set by Crenshaw's Willie West from 1968-2007. Unfortunately, there was a discrepancy and Azzam, who entered the contest with 757 wins instead of what was believed to be 802, will have to wait about another one and a half to two more seasons. Azzam coached at Westchester since 1982. He has six California State championships and 12 CIF-L.A. City titles. The Comets won the City Division I championship over Woodland Hills El Camino Real but lost in the Southern California Regional Open Division against Etiwanda last season.
The overall coaching wins leader in California is Mater Dei's still active head mentor Gary McKnight with 975, meaning that he will most likely collect his 1,000th coaching victory sometime early next season. He head coached the Monarchs since 1982 and they are currently the top ranked team in the United States by most prep sports polls.
Against the Huskies, Westchester was tied at 38 at halftime but wore down the squad that is being faced with rebuilding after winning the back-to-back Sac Joaquin Section Division I crowns, outscoring them 39-17 in the second half.
Elijah Stewart led the Comets (13-4) with 23 points, followed by Myles Stewart with 13.
Westchester begins in the Western League at home against Venice Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. before visiting Palisades on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Also in last week's girls' action, Bishop Montgomery enjoyed a very good week defeating three quality squads in just three days. It started on Jan. 7 when the host Knights downed Long Beach St. Anthony, head coached by former Harbor City Narbonne mentor James Anderson, 65-44. A day later at Redondo, the Knights won a defensive battle over the Sea Hawks 32-29 in a contest where they held Redondo to only one point apiece in the second and third quarters that saw Bishop Montgomery build a 26-11 lead before the Sea Hawks made a furocious fourth period rally and nearly pulled the game out. Last Thursday at Bishop Montgomery, the Knights pulled away from Manhattan Beach Mira Costa 51-30.
Bishop Montgomery begins the Del Rey League at home La Puente Bishop Amat tonight at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the Knights will attempt to make it 4-1 (losing in the earlier Redondo Tournament game to West Torrance and, a couple of weeks later, topping Peninsula) against Bay League teams when they visit Palos Verdes Saturday at the same time.
Redondo, which bounced back with a 64-51 non-league win over Bishop Amat last Saturday at Redondo, begins the Bay League at home against Peninsula tonight at 6 p.m. and host rival Mira Costa Friday at the same time.
The Mustangs, who tied with West Torrance for the Bay League title last season, host the Warriors tonight at 6 p.m.
Snyder's South Bay Basketball Top 10:
Boys: 1. Redondo (12-3), 2. Bishop Montgomery (14-1), 3. Westchester (13-3), 4. Serra (10-6), 5. Mira Costa (14-2), 6. Lawndale (9-7), 7. North Torrance (13-3), 8. Inglewood (9-5), 9. Torrance (10-6), 10. Culver City (9-7).
Girls: 1. Serra (12-2), 2. West Torrance (15-2), 3. Bishop Montgomery (11-5), 4. Redondo (10-5), 5. Narbonne (10-5), 6. Mira Costa (10-6), 7. Peninsula (11-5), 8. Culver City (11-4), 9. San Pedro (9-4), 10. Inglewood (7-7).