Centaurs vie for high playoff seed

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SCORER: Jaylen Pulliam-Carpenter of Culver City High School shoots around Inglewood's Edward Scott in Culver’s 61-49 loss last Wednesday. Second-place Culver closes the Ocean League at home against Beverly Hills Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Photo by George Laa

The Culver City High School boys basketball team had a tough week, as it fell short of Santa Monica, 59-58 last Wednesday at Culver City before losing to host Inglewood, 61-49, last Friday.

The Centaurs will visit last-place Hawthorne (12-13 overall, 1-7 in league) Tuesday, then close Ocean League-play with the hope of a favorable CIF-Southern Section playoff seeding at home against Beverly Hills, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Inglewood’s win over the Centaurs increased their Ocean League record to 7-1 as they clinched, at least, a share of the Ocean League title.

Culver City played better against the Sentinels than it did in its 69-46 home loss earlier in league play.

The Centaurs started well by taking a 19-16 first-quarter lead, but the Sentinels came back and outscored them, 45-30, in the remainder of the game.

Culver City (18-6, 5-3) had a game-high 18 points from Darren Johnson. Two other players scored in double figures – Aamahd Walker with 13 and Keilan Horton with 12, but the Centaurs had only three other players combine for just six points.

Walker collected 42 hustle points (rebounds, assists, blocks, steals). Gabe Baettig contributed 25 and Jaylen Carpenter had 15.

Inglewood, also 18-6 overall, had better scoring depth, with 10 different players scoring. Leading the Sentinels was Julius Bilbrew with 17 points and Rhon Mitchell with 14. Inglewood is ranked fourth in the CIF-Southern Section Division III-AA.

The Centaurs were able to win their Ocean League opener at Santa Monica, 54-42 on Jan. 5, but the Vikings are improved, coming off an upset of Inglewood a week earlier. Santa Monica is also the defending CIF-Southern Section Division I-A runner-up, but faced with a young and lesser-experienced squad this year.

After a 12-12 tie at the end of the first period, Santa Monica went on an 18-1 run to build a 30-13 advantage with about three minutes left in the second quarter.

Culver City battled back and got within one point on a few occasions, including the final score. The Centaurs, however, missed a jumper as the buzzer sounded. Culver City had the ball at half court with two seconds left. A desperation jump shot was rebounded by Aamahd Walker just as the buzzer went off.

“It’s been our problem during this season,” Culver City head coach Jonathan Chapman said. “We would let the other team get ahead of us. We had to fight so hard. Santa Monica played hard. We would hit our shots we needed but not the last ones. Santa Monica had a little advantage on us. They got a key rebound and we didn’t.”

Rufus Humphrey led the Centaurs with a game-high 17 points. Jason Goodwin and Johnson added 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Walker earned 64 hustle points. Humphrey tallied 48, Carpenter 25 and Baettig contributed 23.

The Vikings’ balanced scoring was led by Jeremiah Shelvin and Holden Foshag, with 12 points each.

Two wins in its final two league games this week at Hawthorne and at home against Beverly Hills might get the Centaurs a home playoff game, according to assistant coach David Gordon. Culver City defeated those teams in the first round.