Support our high school sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber. Subscribe now
SACRAMENTO — Centennial’s trek to the CIF State Open Division boys basketball final produced such dominance a popular question leading into the Huskies’ last challenge Saturday night was whether they deserved to be held in Southern California royalty with say, Chino Hills’ star-studded 2016 squad.
That debate might continue but Centennial couldn’t worry about it much on this night.
The Huskies had a tighter-than-expected duel against Modesto Christian to pull out before a pro-Crusaders crowd of nearly 8,000 at Golden 1 Center.
Centennial capped a postseason filled with 20-point victories by surging in the final 3 1/2 minutes to defeat Modesto Christian 59-50 to capture its first state championship and notch a 30th consecutive victory.
New Mexico-bound point guard Donovan Dent orchestrated a game-closing 11-2 run to deliver the championship after Modesto Christian tied the score 48-48.
“It just shows how tough these guys are (and) just how committed they are to winning,” said Centennial coach Josh Giles, whose squad also won the CIF-SS Open Division and beat Sierra Canyon for the SoCal regional crown.
“They’re able to fight through stuff and overcome. They found a way to win. They’ve been winners all year and tonight was no different.”
Dent finished with a game-high 21 points while fellow starters Jared McCain (16), Aaron McBride (10) and Devin Williams (10) each reached double-figures. Williams added four blocks.
But it was a vastly different finish for the dominant Huskies (33-1), who didn’t have a game closer than 20 points in the postseason before Saturday.
Centennial, ranked second in the nation by MaxPreps, behind Duncanville of Texas the only team to beat the Huskies this season, led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter but had to settle for a 46-37 advantage heading into the fourth.
Modesto Christian (30-6) then hit the offensive boards and ignited its fastbreak to open the frame with a 9-0 burst to tie the score 46-46.
“(We) put a scare into them,” Modesto Christian coach Brice Fantazia said.
The score was tied again at 48 before Dent drove on Modesto Christian 6-foot-10 post Prince Oseya for the go-ahead layup with about 3:10 left. Moments later, the senior grabbed a steal on the perimeter and raced for the breakaway basket.
Then it was Cain’s turn to cap his Sacramento homecoming. The junior, who lived in Sacramento until he was about 13, sank a 3-pointer with 2:20 left for a 55-50 lead.
Dent assisted a fastbreak layup to Ramsey Huff and made a slick pass to McBride for a punctuating slam dunk with one minute left.
“It was the best way to go out,” said Dent, who added eight rebounds and five assists.
Giles took the comparisons to Chino Hills as a compliment. That 2016 team started a trio of future NBA lottery picks in Lonzo Ball, LaMello Ball and Onyeka Okongwu and became the first public school to capture the Open.
Centennial became the second.
“To even be mentioned in the same conversation with that team just shows you how good and how hard these guys fought throughout the season,” Giles said. “For us to follow up (Chino Hills) and do it the way we’ve done it, was pretty big.”