Carter Bryant lifts Centennial boys basketball team to Big VIII League victory over Roosevelt – Press Enterprise

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CORONA — The Roosevelt boys basketball team had the scoring balance that coaches dream about and wins plenty of games.

On this particular Tuesday evening, however, Centennial had the player who tipped the scales in its favor.

Carter Bryant drained shot after shot with defenders in his face and finished with 39 points on 13-of-20 shooting and 11 rebounds as the Huskies withstood a final charge from Roosevelt and held on for an 82-78 victory in the Big VIII League opener for both teams.

Centennial extended its Big VIII League winning streak to 65 games, while coach Josh Giles inched closer to a milestone with the 496th win of his career.

Bryant is a 6-foot-8 forward who has signed with Arizona, and he put on a show for Wildcats coach Tommy Lloyd, who was among those in the standing-room crowd. Bryant scored 10 points to help Centennial (14-7) take a double-digit lead in the opening three minutes of the game. Roosevelt (18-2) battled back, but Bryant sank two more 3-pointers to give the Huskies a 20-17 advantage after that first quarter.

“I would say that it’s preparation and just staying consistent to what I do,” said Bryant, who transferred to Centennial from Sage Hill for his senior season. “I started off this season real rough… My first 6 or 7 games, I was struggling. I couldn’t shoot, and teams were just leaving me open.

“I just stayed with the fundamentals and stuck to the things that got me to this point. I knew at some point shots were going to start falling.”

And Bryant wasn’t just taking advantage of open looks Tuesday night. Most of the baskets he knocked down were contested at the point of release.

“Those were NBA-level shots,” Giles said. “I felt Roosevelt played amazing defense on him, but that is what he is capable of doing. We’ve been kind of waiting for a game like this all year. Of all the great players that have come through here, I don’t know if there’s been someone scrutinized as much as him. It seems like nothing is ever good enough, no matter what he does. So to see him do what he did, in such a big game like this, was great.

“It’s the reason why he wanted to come here. To be in an atmosphere that we had here tonight. And he just stepped up and delivered.”

Roosevelt showed why its was the No.2-ranked team in the state, according to Cal-Hi Sports entering Tuesday night’s showdown. The Mustangs absorbed those early punches and eventually tied the game at 20 during the opening minute of the second quarter.

“Our guys are never going to quit. They’re going to keep on battling down to the final whistle,” Roosevelt coach Stephen Singleton said about the way his team rebounded for that slow start. “We’ve been down plenty of times this season and found ways to win,”

Carter definitely stole the spotlight Tuesday night, but seldom-used sophomore guard Tariq Iscandari also was a difference-maker for the Huskies. Iscandari finished with 20 points and had a perfecting shooting line: 7 for 7 from the field, including three 3s, and 3 for 3 at the free-throw line.

“I gave him a huge hug when he came into the locker room,” Giles said of Iscandari, who scored 14 of his points during the final period.

“There was a game at the Damien Classic where he only played four seconds. He’s been struggling a little with his confidence and trying to figure out what his role is on this team. He’s stayed the course and worked hard, and he really took advantage of a great opportunity tonight.”

Roosevelt held only one lead in the game, at the 5:07 mark of the third quarter when Darnez Slater nailed a baseline jumper to put the Mustangs up 43-42. Centennial proceeded to go on a 31-18 run, with Bryant and Iscandari combining for 25 of those points.

Centennial appeared to have the game in hand with a 73-61 lead with 2:50 remaining in the game. But Roosevelt answered back with an 11-2 run over the next 78 seconds to trim the deficit to three points. Slater and Dominic Copenhagen each sank a 3-pointer in that run to give the Mustangs a chance down the stretch. Centennial was able to hit 5 of 6 free throws at the end to seal the win.

Slater scored 22 points to lead five Roosevelt players in double figures. Issac Williamson finished with 15 points, Myles Walker had 13 points, Brayden Burries scored 12 points and Copenhagen added 10 more points for the Mustangs,

Centennial also took advantage of a 41-22 edge in the rebounding department. The Huskies had the first 12 rebounds of the night. UCLA-bound guard Eric Freeny finished with a game-high 14 rebounds to go along with his 11 points. Markee White had seven boards, six coming in the opening period.

“That is something we are going to have to fix if we see them again,” Singleton said. “Rebounding is about effort, heart and desire. We told our guys, ‘That’s what Centennial does.’ They have guys whose job is to go out there crash the boards… We have to be more aggressive in that area.”

The Big VIII League is using a new format this season, with teams playing just one round before a season-ending tournament decides the league title. Centennial and Roosevelt are heavy favorites to reach the tournament championship game, which will be held Feb. 2 at Santiago High School.

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