Prep Preview: Centennial @ Santiago

I’m covering the Corona Centennial-Corona Santiago girls varsity basketball game tonight for The Press-Enterprise. The best part of this assignment is sure to be trying to dissect two of the very best teams in the Inland Area.

The Huskies (16-7 overall, 8-2 Big VIII) play the Sharks (21-2, 10-0) for the third time this season, this time at Santiago High School. Game time is 6 p.m.

THE LOWDOWN:
The Huskies, ranked 5th in CIF-Southern Section Division 1A, have won four consecutive since their last loss — a 15-point dicing by the fins of the Sharks on 1/18. It was coach Martin Woods’ second loss of the season to Santiago, the other coming in pool play at the Best of the West Tournament at Chino Hills Ayala HS in late December. In fact, Woods has yet to beat Santiago, going 0-10 against the Sharks in his five years on the job since 2006-’07. The Huskies are led by do-everything senior G/F Tyler Woods (5-foot-10), who averages 17.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 4.2 steals per game.

The Sharks, ranked 6th in Division 1AA, posted a perfect (8-0) January. In fact, coach John Perez’s team is undefeated while riding its current nine-game winning streak. Their last loss, on Dec. 31, 2010 to Fontana Summit in the championship game of the Best of the West Tournament, was just their second of the season. Simply, this team knows how to win and does so often. And led by the 18.8 points per game scoring of sensational sophomore G/F Chrishae Rowe (5-foot-9), and the inside play of freshman F/C Monique Billings (6-foot-3), the Sharks look like winners for years to come.

PROJECTED STARTING 5s:
CENTENNIAL
 – G: Tyler Woods, Michelle Sutton; F: Heidi Wheat, Ashley Merrill; C: Aleiah Brandon.

SANTIAGO – G: Jade Khuri, Keeley Anderson, Shiana Carrington; W: Chrishae Rowe; C: Monique Billings.

THE DIFFERENCE:
Centennial’s seven seniors have one last shot to do something they never have — beat Santiago. Can its experienced roster (seven seniors, three juniors) finally find a way to outwit Santiago’s young but very talented group? It hasn’t been pretty this season, with the Sharks winning by eight points on 12/29, and by 15 points on 1/18. So either the Sharks get out to a big early lead and win by 22, or this game comes down to the final possession.

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