In a game that was tightly contested to the end, the Centennial High School Huskies claimed the 2019 King Cotton Holiday Classic Championship Monday as they downed the NSU University Sharks 62-48.
Centennial, out of Corona, California came in ranked No. 7 in the country by maxpreps.com and advanced to the finals by defeating Bryant 61-52 and Jacksonville 58-54, led by Head Coach Joshua Giles.
The Sharks out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and led by Head Coach Ron Oliver advanced to the finals by taking down Parkview 73-61, and gaining a 62-48 win over Orr Academy.
The Huskies and Sharks came out in an extended match-up 2-3 zone on defense. The Sharks attacked the middle of the zone by getting to the rack instead of settling for jumpers. For the Huskies, junior Paris Dawson showed poise from the point guard position as he conducted the offense.
After missing the first two games of the tournament, NSU sophomore Jett Howard showed his long range ability by drilling the first three of the game. However, Dawson answered with a wing three of his own to keep up the efficiency from deep that he’s shown throughout the tournament.
The big man matchup between NSU sophomore Taylor Hendricks and Sharks senior Mason Machado proved to be one to watch for as they both established themselves inside.
After one quarter of play, NSU held a slim two-point lead over Centennial.
Both teams began the second quarter trading three pointers. Then it was Dawson knocking down his second triple of the game as the ball movement around the perimeter was precise for the Huskies.
NSU had the size advantage down low, but Centennial’s perimeter play was the equalizer early on that kept them in it.
A highly competitive first half ended with NSU senior Roger McFarlane driving the lane and banking one in to beat the buzzer. The Sharks took a 28-23 lead over the Huskies into halftime.
NSU out-rebounded Centennial 23-11 in the first half, and 12 of those were offensive. Those second chances were the difference in the game at the intermission. Neither team attempted a free throw in the first half.
NSU senior forward Jace Howard opens the second half with a corner three. McFarlane followed up a couple plays later with a two hand slam off of an offensive rebound.
The Sharks ability to control the board continued to prove to be the difference at the 4:35 mark of the third quarter as they held an eight point lead. Centennial responded by going on an 8-3 run to make it a one possession game.
In the final minute of the third quarter NSU scored four unanswered to take a 44-38 lead into the final quarter of play. Hendricks continued to clean up the glass, and he was 4-4 from the free throw line.
Huff opened the fourth with his second three of the game, and he was followed by senior Aaron Wadman with a layup to make it five straight points for Centennial. The Huskies were much more aggressive on defense, diving on the floor for loose balls, and not giving anything up in transition. The Huskies took a one-point lead with 5:41 to play.
NSU regained control with a three point play converted by Jace Howard as he was fouled while making a layup.
That’s when Centennial responded with a 7-0 run to take a five point lead with 3:07 to play in the game, forcing Oliver to call a timeout.
After that timeout, Centennial didn’t let up and a couple of steals gave them the chance for points off of turnovers and they capitalized. Leading 60-53, Giles called for timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, Centennial took full control by scoring four straight to officially put it out of reach.
For NSU, Taylor Hendricks had a team-high 20 points.
Championship MVP Paris Dawson for Centennial finished with a team-high 17 points and six assists.