Centennial girls basketball team uses pressure to beat Santiago in Big VIII League opener – Press Enterprise

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CORONA — Kinyada Johnson has been in charge of the Centennial girls basketball team for only three weeks.

Johnson became the varsity team’s interim coach during the holiday break when first-year coach Kareem Houghton was placed on administrative leave. The Huskies lost two straight out of the gate after Christmas but have rattled off five consecutive wins.

“I think everyone is starting to trust one another, and we’re starting to establish and find that new identity,” Johnson said.

Centennial applied full-court pressure from the opening tip and grabbed a double-digit lead in the first half. The Huskies held off a couple of charges by Santiago and walked away with a 64-51 home victory in the Big VIII League opener for both teams.

Tierra Taylor and Aniyah Offutt had 18 and 16 points, respectively, to lead a balanced scoring attack by Centennial (10-9).

“I think we’re starting to get the right vibe,” Offutt said. “She (Johnson) understands us, and we understand her. She’s pushing us to the limit, and I think the results in recent games show that things are heading in the right direction.”

Points were at a premium in the opening quarter, as the teams combined to make only 5 of 34 shots from the field. Santiago (11-9) turned the ball over nine times in the first period, but only trailed 7-6 going into the second quarter.

Offutt drained a pair of 3-pointers and Tierra Taylor knocked down another shot from long range to spark an 11-0 run that pushed Centennial’s advantage to 22-8 with 4:37 remaining in the first half. Santiago managed to close the gap to 27-22 at the break. Rylee Ghent had eight points in the second period to get the Sharks back in the game.

Santiago, the Big VIII League’s defending champion, made 7 of 11 shots in the third quarter to stay within striking distance. Zawadi Ogot and Ghent combined to score all 15 points in that period for the Sharks, who cut the deficit to three points twice in the quarter.

Centennial never surrendered the lead, however, as Taylor and Offutt continued to make big shots down the stretch.

“I’m a coach who believes in transition. I like to get up and down the court,” Johnson said of the pace the Huskies are playing at. “It took a few games to get everything going the right way. But now I see extra passes being made, and the wins are coming.”

Santiago cleaned things up a bit on the offensive end in the second half but still finished the night with 21 turnovers.

“I think our team’s identity starts with our defense,” Offutt said. “We are aggressive and look to make team uncomfortable. What we don’t want done to us is what we try to do to other teams. Our defense is going to help us win a lot of games.”

Morgan Hawkins finished with 10 points and eight rebounds for Centennial, and Offutt also tallied eight rebounds. Cydnee Bryant had eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds, helping the Huskies to a 48-38 edge on the rebounding department.

Ogot had 14 points and six rebounds for Santiago. Jayda Cobbs added nine points and 10 rebounds for the Sharks.

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