CORONA—One of the best aspects of Southern California Regional basketball playoffs is they give teams a second chance.
The Corona Centennial boys’ team is grateful to have another opportunity to end its season on a winning after losing by 16 points Saturday against Long Beach Poly in the Southern Section Division 1AA championship game.
The Huskies weren’t about to let this one slip away.
Gelaun Wheelwright scored 31 points and Dominique Dunning had 28 to lead the second-seeded Huskies to an 89-73 victory Tuesday night against visiting Redlands East Valley in the opening round of the Division 1 regionals.
“Our team really came out focused and ready to play so we can get another crack at them,” Wheelwright said of the top-seeded Jackrabbits.
Of course, a number of talented teams still stand between Centennial and Poly, but the Huskies are prepared to go through anybody. They already have a victory this season against third-seeded Woodland Hills Taft.
“We know we can compete with anybody in there,” Dunning said. “We’re just as confident as anybody else.”
Redlands East Valley (25-8) stayed with Centennial (28-4) during the first half, thanks in part to 14 first-half points from REV guard Greg Dishman. Leading by nine points at halftime, the Huskies used a 10-0 run early in the third quarter to take a 55-37 lead and the Wildcats never pulled back within single digits.
With Long Beach State-bound point guard Michael Caffey nursing a sprained ankle for much of the second half, Wheelwright and Dunning picked up the slack. Wheelwright scored 19 points after halftime and Dunning had 16.
Wheelwright sank five three-point baskets.
“I guess today was my night,” he said. “Luckily they were falling.”
Redlands East Valley guard Terrell Todd said it wasn’t Centennial’s shooting ability that put the Wildcats in a hole, but its speed.
“They were faster than us,” Todd said. “We never played a different team like that. They were fast, pushed the ball and we couldn’t handle it.”
Wheelwright said he sensed the Huskies defensive pressure was also giving REV problems.
“Our pressure helped a lot,” he said. “They were nervous when they got into the traps and we forced a lot of turnovers.”
Dishman did his part, making a season-high seven three-pointers and scoring a season-best 28 points. Todd, the team’s leading scorer at 20.3 points a game, finished with 14 and Pepperdine-bound center Paulin Mpawe had 10.
Centennial will play host to Westchester on Thursday in their second round game.