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Corona Centennial beats Mater Dei in Division 1AA semifinal, 60-58

Michael Caffey scores 23 points for the Huskies, who toughen up on defense to erase a 12-point halftime deficit and advance to title game against Long Beach Poly, a 60-53 winner over Etiwanda.

March 01, 2011|Eric Sondheimer

At halftime of Tuesday night's Southern Section Division 1AA semifinal against Santa Ana Mater Dei, Corona Centennial Coach Josh Giles said he didn't yell at his team even though it trailed by 12 points and had shown little energy or aggressiveness.

He calmly pleaded, "We got to go. If we're going to go down, let's play our game."

And so the real Huskies team showed up in the second half, the one that relies on all-out full-court pressure and tries to create chaos and confusion for opponents. A young Mater Dei team wilted and finally lost, 60-58, at the Anaheim Convention Center, unable to deal with Centennial point guard Michael Caffey, who scored 23 points and helped lead a defense that forced 24 turnovers.

"The turnovers absolutely killed us, and that's a tribute to their team," Mater Dei Coach Gary McKnight said.

Centennial (27-3) was behind, 24-9, early in the second quarter with Caffey stuck on the bench because of two fouls. Giles finally decided Caffey had to play, and he scored four baskets in the quarter to keep his team within striking distance. Mater Dei made 16 of 24 first-half shots and faced little defensive pressure.

"In the first half, we didn't make a shot and we played awful defense," Giles said. "We didn't pressure anybody. It wasn't us. In the second half, we started playing the way we can, causing commotion and making it as hectic as possible."

Centennial took its first lead of the game with 6:10 left on a goaltending call against Xavier Johnson. Centennial's three talented seniors — Caffey, Gelaun Wheelwright and Dominique Dunning — combined for 52 of the Huskies' 60 points.

Katin Reinhardt scored 22 points for Mater Dei (27-3) and Eli Stalzer had 16. Stalzer had a chance to tie the score with 9.3 seconds left, but he made only one of two free throws. Chris Popov's free throw with 4.6 seconds left gave the Huskies a two-point cushion, and Mater Dei couldn't tie it up.

"When we're running around and the game looks out of control, that's when we're in perfect control," Giles said.

Centennial will play top-seeded Long Beach Poly (28-1) in Saturday's 6 p.m. final. Poly survived a defensive struggle against Etiwanda to win, 60-53, despite making just eight of 19 free throws in the fourth quarter.

Sophomore Roschon Prince contributed two key baskets in the final minute and finished with 19 points.

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