CORONA — Gelaun Wheelwright is getting pretty adept at picking up the slack.
The senior guard for the Corona Centennial boys’ basketball team had to carry some of the scoring load for hobbled teammate Michael Caffey and he came through with 38 points Thursday night in a 68-57 victory against Westchester in CIF Southern California Regional Division 1 quarterfinal at Centennial.
The Huskies advanced to host Woodland Hills Taft in the regional semifinals Saturday night. Centennial beat the Toreadors earlier this season at the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic.
As the second-seeded team, Centennial has enjoyed home-court advantage through the first two rounds. Wheelwright said the comfortable confines has helped spark his stellar play. The Huskies had just one home game in the Southern Section Division 1AA playoffs, which ended with a loss to top-seeded Long Beach Poly in the championship game at Anaheim Convention Center.
“I feel good playing in front of a bunch of my peers,” said Wheelwright, who signed with Weber State. “They get me focused and ready to play.”
Caffey, who signed with Long Beach State, sprained his right ankle in the third quarter of a first-round victory Tuesday against visiting Redlands East Valley and did not return. Wheelwright finished with 31 points in that win.
As recently as Thursday morning, Caffey was still on crutches.
“I honestly didn’t know if I was going to play or not because it was killing me,” Caffey said of his ankle. “I was a little slower than usual but then my adrenaline started pumping.”
Caffey finished with seven points, including a big 3-point basket early in the fourth quarter that broke a 48-48 tie.
After a back and forth first half, the Comets scored the first five points of the third quarter to take their biggest lead, 34-29. Wheelwright scored eight straight points later in the quarter to push Centennial ahead by three points, but the Huskies didn’t get any separation until Wheelwright sank a 3-pointe with 2:45 remaining in the game, putting his team ahead, 60-52.
Westchester answered with a 3-pointer by Joshua Wilson but New Mexico-bound guard Dominique Dunning scored on the other end for Centennial and Wheelwright’s fifth 3-pointer of the game with 1:20 left gave the Huskies their first double-digit lead, 65-55.
“The fact that we’re a fast team and we press, I think we’re able to force a lot of turnovers and get in the open court,” Wheelwright said. “We have three of the best guards in the state, so I think that works to our advantage.”
Robert Gsellman, who scored a team-high 18 points for the Comets, said the Huskies speed in the open court was too much to handle.
“They had a lot more speed than us,” he said. “They kept beating us on fast-break points.”
The Comets were able to counter some of the speed with second-chance points early on, but that didn’t last.
“We didn’t come out with the same intensity for rebounding as we did in the first half,” Gsellman said.