Eastvale – A year removed from a five-game sweep over Centennial High School, Roosevelt High’s Varsity Basketball team finds themselves on the opposite end of the broom after falling to the Centennial Huskies, for a second time this season, with a 63-59 loss. With the win, Centennial all but ensured yet another Big VIII Boys’ Basketball League Title.
Neither team got off to a hot start, but Centennial emerged from the first quarter with a 4-point lead. Despite the score, it seemed as though Roosevelt was significantly outplayed in the first eight minutes of the game.
What was the key for Centennial? It was pressure and a lot of it. A full-court press forced Roosevelt into a number of predicaments and reckless plays ensued. The Mustangs tried their luck on passes across the width of the court, and sure enough, Centennial intercepted a number of the attempts. A key difference that separated the two teams was the Huskies’ ability to capitalize on turnovers whereas Roosevelt frequently came up empty-handed.
Roosevelt’s two biggest threats, David Agba and Jared Williams, fought a physical battle in the paint. Given the lack of opportunities on the perimeter, both players were force-fed the ball. Despite the attention they received from Centennial’s defense, Agba and Williams had productive days with 16 and 20 points respectively.
Guard DJ Davis proved to be the x-factor for Centennial; he was the player that separated the two teams. Arguably the best shooter on the floor, he stretched Roosevelt’s defense as they were forced to give him extra attention. He finished the night with three three-pointers and 24 points total.
While still competitive, the difference between this year’s Roosevelt team and last year’s couldn’t have been more evident. The departed duo of Matt Mitchell (San Diego State) and Jemarl Baker (Kentucky) haven’t been replaced. Jared Williams did his best Mitchell impression by doing damage from the paint and nailing a deep shot in the fourth quarter to give Roosevelt a temporary lead. However, the Mustangs don’t have a shooter who is a threat to score every time they touch the ball to replace Baker.
Fouls were an issue for both teams, but in the end, they hurt Roosevelt more. Two starters, Jared Williams and Brennon Wade, reached the five-foul limit in the fourth quarter and were forced to come out of the game. It was the ejection of Williams that was costliest. After his departure, Centennial went on a five-point run that gave them a 55-50 lead.
Four points was the difference between Roosevelt and Centennial on Friday night. The Mustangs made 14 of 19 free throws on the night for free throw percentage of 73.6%; Centennial made 19 of 25 free throws (76%). Fouls and missed opportunities was the story of the night for Roosevelt.
One can only hope the two teams will get a shot to play each other in the playoffs. Redemption is on Roosevelt’s mind, and there’s little doubt that if the inland powerhouses get one more chance to compete against each other, we’ll get to witness yet another instant classic.