Centaurs in playoffs after stellar season

He scores! Aamahd Walker of the Culver City High School varsity basketball team powers his way through the defense for a layup. The Centaur boys and girls squads are in the CIF playoffs this week. Photo by George Laase

Emerging as a valuable eighth man, sophomore Julius Wilson might be the spark plug to power the Culver City High School varsity basketball team into the second round of the playoffs, which begin tomorrow against the winner of the Bishop Montgomery-Tustin game played yesterday in Torrance.

Wilson’s speed and disciplined production coming off the bench has caught the attention of head coach Jon Chapman and his assistants as they prepared the squad this past weekend for the CIF Division III-AA playoffs.

Despite a 59-53 home loss to Beverly Hills last Thursday, the Culver City High School boys’ basketball team ended up in a tie for second place in the Ocean League with Santa Monica.

The Centaurs, who ended league play at 6-4 and displayed a stellar 19-7 overall mark, are seeded No. 11 in the CIF-Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs, and opened at home against Arlington High from Riverside, the third-place team from the Inland Valley League. If Culver City defeated Arlington, it could meet up with Del Rey League champion Bishop Montgomery (which originally placed second behind rival Gardena Serra before the Cavaliers had to forfeit their 13 victories due to use of an ineligible player) at a site to be determined in the second round, Friday at 7 p.m.

The Knights opened the playoffs at home against Tustin High last night. They are seeded sixth.

First-place Inglewood (9-1 in league, 20-5 overall) of the Ocean League hosted Lawndale in Division III-A action, and Upland hosted Santa Monica (6-4 in league, 12-14 overall) in Division I-AA first-round play.

Against the Normans, the Centaurs led by three points (43-40) through three quarters but Beverly Hills had a big fourth period and outscored Culver City, 19-10, to pull off the victory during senior night at Culver City High School.

Culver City’s turnovers (20 for the game), too much dribbling, and not enough passing, resulted in a 10-point fourth quarter and the 59-53 Norman victory.

The Centaurs were led by Keilan Horton with a game-high 21 points, 12 rebounds and six steals. Aamahd Walker added 13 points and Darren Johnson contributed five points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists.

Leading the Normans, who finished fifth in league at 3-7, were Julian Dakdouk and Austin Mills with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

Beverly Hills guard Mills put on a passing clinic, setting up his teammates for open shots. Austin also poured in five three-pointers in the second half.

Walker earned 58 hustle points (rebounds, assists, steals and blocks). Kekoa Mathews collected 29, Horton had 17, and Rufus Humphrey had 16 hustle points.

At Hawthorne last week, Culver City pulled away from the host Cougars, 60-51.

The Centaurs led nearly the entire game, although the Cougars, behind a game-high 24 points from Miles Green, were within three points (54-51). Culver City, then, had a key basket by Jaylen Pulliam-Carpenter and free throws by Horton to put the game away.

Culver City had a comfortable 48-37 advantage early in the fourth quarter, but a technical foul on Carpenter fired up the Cougars. Hawthorne went on a 14-6 run, to cut the lead to 54-51. Six free throws and solid defense secured the 60-51 win. Humphrey, the starting center, did not play because of a sprained ankle. Gabe Baettig, the sixth man, was sick and was not at the game.

“We made mistakes and gave the ball away a couple of times,” Chapman said, adding, “We played pretty solid defense and ran the clock down. It worked out well.”

Horton led the Centaurs with 17 points. Walker and Johnson chipped in 16 and 14 points, respectively. Carpenter finished with nine points.

Carpenter (11 steals) and Walker (12 defensive rebounds) were the defensive players of the game.

Walker led Culver City with 61 hustle points. Carpenter tallied 53, and Kekoa Mathews collected 33. Darren Johnson had 14 hustle points, and Wilson contributed 11.