Centennial boys basketball team prevails in fifth and final out-of-state trip of the season

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — You’ve heard the saying, ‘More money, more problems.’

For the Centennial boys basketball team, it’s ‘More success, more travel.’

The demand for the team in national tournaments has reached an unprecedented level after winning the CIF State Open Division title last season. Having Duke-commit Jared McCain and UCLA-bound forward Devin Williams raises the team’s profile, too.

“We’ve been to Arizona, Texas, Florida and North Carolina,” Huskies coach Josh Giles said. “And now Massachusetts.”

The fifth – and final – out-of-state trip ended with a 66-62 win over Camden of New Jersey at the Spalding Hoophall Classic Saturday night.

Camden (11-2) has the country’s No. 1 recruit in DJ Wagner, but McCain was the star of the show, scoring 27 points (including six 3-pointers) while adding six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Aaron McBride, who has signed with Loyola Marymount, tallied 11 points and nine rebounds. Williams added 10 points for Centennial. McCain, McBride and Williams played all 32 minutes.

All the travel has combined for more than 25,000 miles for the Huskies this season.

“If you add the trip to Atlanta in the fall as HoopNation, we’ve been to the East Coast four times this year,” Giles said.

McCain was awarded a Player of the Game plaque and robe in front of a sold-out crowd as the Huskies moved to 17-3. The results are there, but all the travel has Giles concerned about the team’s progress toward the ultimate goal: repeating as state champions.

“If we’re going to be serious about making a run, we need to start kicking it up a notch, starting right now… actually, starting two weeks ago,” Giles said. “Because we’ve had success, there’s been a little bit of a ‘been-there, done-that’ feel sometimes.”

Centennial’s Devin Williams throws down a slam dunk against Camden of New Jersey at the Spalding Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2003. (Courtesy of the Basketball Hall of Fame)

Giles feels like the team thinks it can turn on championship-level play like a light switch.

“I hate it more than anything on planet earth. To me, it’s always got to be on,” said Giles.

McCain flipped some kind of switch against Camden when he scored 11 of 13 points for Centennial that spanned from the end of the third quarter to the 4-minute mark in the final frame. The other two points were created by McCain, who stole the ball and fed a teammate for a layup that created a 55-45 lead.

Williams believes the focus on the ultimate goal is clear.

“These big, great games are awesome, but we have one, main goal,” he said. “We want to win another state championship. I think all this prepares us for the California teams we’ll need to beat to achieve that.”

The team’s make-up looks different from last year’s without the team’s four-year program player and point guard, Donovan Dent, who is now at New Mexico. Transfer Mike Price (from Sierra Canyon) has filled the void in some aspects.

“Donovan was our point guard for the last three years,” Williams said. “Most of the team has been playing for years, and we have added pieces with Mike and Eric Freeny stepping up. But it’s the same goal, nothing changes. We just have to keep building chemistry. Once we get it down, we’ll be pretty unstoppable.”

Centennial has one more road trip to play, but it’s in state, when the Huskies travel to Oakland to take on Salesian College Prep on Saturday, Jan. 21.