Samantha Lee connects for one of her seven 3-pointers, during Keppel’s first-round drubbing of visiting Yucaipa on Saturday. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Sports Editor

ALHAMBRA.–To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it got late early at Mark Keppel High School on Saturday night, as the Lady Aztecs made quick work of visiting Yucaipa in their CIF Southern Section Div. 2AA playoff opener. Keppel won this one running away, 82-27.

Before the seats were warm – literally – Keppel had built a double-digit to zero lead against their taller but slower opponents. Midway into the first period, Keppel (24-4) had passed the 20-point mark, while Yucaipa didn’t get its first score until there were around three minutes left in the quarter.

Senior Alyson Lock led all scorers with 25 points, but the hot hand of the night definitely belonged to Samantha Lee. The senior was absolutely sizzling from three-point territory, making seven of her nine attempted shots from behind the arc. Lee finished with 23.

Tammi Matsukiyo scored 10 and Lauren Saiki added four for Keppel.

Head coach Joe Kikuchi said he figured this game wasn’t going to be too challenging, but he wanted to make sure his team had a balanced approach, and did not become complacent going into the next round.

“I told them at the beginning that we need to have fun, and having fun means working hard and executing on defense and on offense,” Kikuchi explained. “I think they did that and that’s why they had fun out there.”

Soph guard Michelle Ojiri wowed the spectators with her slick ball handling and no-look passes. (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

The game got an unexpected jolt of excitement in the fourth quarter, when Kikuchi gave his starters the remainder of the game off and filled the court with his bench players, several of whom had been brought up from the junior varsity team for the playoffs.

Wearing number 4, sophomore guard Michelle Ojiri electrified the crowd with her slick dribbling and dizzying moves, slicing through the Yucaipa defense.

Ojiri said she wasn’t taking her minutes for granted, nor was her team taking the win as a given.

“We still have a long way to go, and we still need to be focused and work hard, because we could get knocked out in any game,” she said.

The Lady Aztecs will next take on host Sante Fe, in the second of the playoffs on Wednesday.

•   •   •

In a game played in San Marino, South Pasadena charged out of the gate firing on all cylinders, and cruised to a 61-37 Div. 3A victory over Ocean View of Huntington Beach.

Within the first two minutes of the contest, Kristen Kafkaloff, Lexie Scholtz and Elise Takahama each hit three-point field goals and the Tigers never looked back.

Kafkaloff was one of two South Pas players with 16 points.

The Tigers (21-5) move on to face either Ganesha or San Luis Obispo on Wednesday.

•   •   •

In Div. 3AA, Kaelyn Kawamoto scored a game-high 27 points as Hacienda Heights Wilson pushed aside Compton, 60-32.

Wilson (22-6) will host Lakeside in the next round of the playoffs.

•   •   •

Kaitlin Matsuguma eludes the defense in Kennedy’s 51-28 whitewash of Elsinore, in Saturday’s CIF Southern Section playoff game. (Photo courtesy Dave Sugimoto)

In La Palma, Kennedy senior Michelle Furuya led all scorers with 12 points, and the Fighting Irish had little trouble overtaking Elsinore, 51-28.
Kylie Masumiya scored nine for Kennedy, Aikana Higa and Erica Sugimoto netted six apiece and Kelsey Matsuguma added three in the win.
Kennedy will next travel to Santa Ana, for their Wednesday night second-round matchup with Segerstrom.
•   •   •
Canyon senior Lindsay Uyematsu was clutch when it counted on Saturday, hitting a trio of three-pointers and leading all scorers with 20, in Saturday’s 56-37 victory at Cypress High.
Raelyn Kawasaki, Sara Jinkawa and Erica Higa each scored two for Cypress.
Canyon, who also have Leigh Ann Kamifuji and Shaye Uyematsu on their roster, continues in the Div. 1A  playoffs today at home against Miller of Fontana.
•   •   •
At JSerra, Coco Miller delivered a commanding performance, scoring a game-high 28 points and leading the second-seeded Lions to a 75-38 victory over visiting Workman.
JSerra will travel to Torrance  Wednesday, for their quarterfinal contest against Nao Shiota, Kate Tokuhara and Bishop Montgomery.
The Knights pulled off a 57-42 upset of Harvard-Westlake on Saturday, with Shiota scoring seven points with five steals and four assists, and Tokuhara adding two in the win.
•   •   •
Cori Okada contributed two points as the Warriors of Troy made quick work of Chaparral, 60-27.
Troy, including Kara Ito and Jennifer Ida, travel to face Kimberly Kodama and the Arcadia Apaches Wednesday in the next round in the playoffs.
•   •   •
In Torrance, West frosh Hayley Tanabe scored 11 points and sophomore Kayla Sato added nine, as the Warriors delivered a solid drubbing to visiting Arlington, 71-27.
Senior Mei Yamamoto scored six, Kayli Imoto netted five, and Bailey Kurahashi and Justine Yamashiro each added three for West.
Yamashiro also led the way on the boards with 10 rebounds.
The Warriors next visit Moorpark for their second-round game on Wednesday.
•   •   •
In Div. 3AA, Kaelyn Kawamoto scored a game-high 27 points as Hacienda Heights Wilson pushed aside Compton, 60-32.
Wilson (22-6) will host Lakeside in the next round of the playoffs.
•   •   •
South Torrance forward Krissy Yabuno matched her team’s high of six points, but the Spartan’s offense sputtered in a 39-30 second-round loss to visiting Glendora on Saturday.
It was the worst scoring output this season for South, and coach Bobby Imamura said he couldn’t recall a game in which his squad struggled so mightily to gather points.
Briana Aoki finished with five points for South.
•   •   •
Westridge sophomore Kayoko Fong scored nine points, but her Tigers were outmatched by visiting Cantwell-Sacred Heart, 77-54.
•   •   •
Maranatha, who showed stellar improvement this season after winning only three games last year, fell in their playoff opener to Whitney, 59-35. Point guard Kei Lani Ando returns next year for her senior season.
•   •   •
On the boys’ side, senior Ethan Kishimoto had a team-high 14 points with three steals, helping West Torrance upend third-seeded Hart on Friday, 64-55.
Stefan Inouye added 11 for coach Paul Nitake’s Warriors, who moved on to host Royal of Simi Valley on Tuesday night.
•   •   •
In La Cañada, Robert Cartwright led the way for Flintridge Prep, scoring a game-high 27 points and leading the Rebels to a 67-47 win over Desert Christian.
Coach Garrett Ohara’s team traveled to Oxnard on Tuesday, to face Santa Clara in the next round.
•   •   •
Senior Brenden Fujishige scored five points and junior Reed Ito added four, but Schurr’s season ended with a thud Friday, after a 79-62 loss to visiting Troy of Fullerton.
•   •   •
At Venice on Thursday, Brett Morimota scored six as his Gondoliers slipped past the visiting Banning Pilots, 63-58. Venice moved on in the playoffs to face Kennedy of Granada Hills on Tuesday.

A comprehensive list of Nikkei players involved in this year’s high school basketball playoffs is forthcoming. The Rafu is looking for local stars to feature in its annual roundup of Nikkei players who will be involved in the post-season. If you know of players who deserve some recognition, please let us know his or her name and school. The full official brackets for both the girls’ and boys’ playoffs can be found at the CIF Southern Section website,

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