On the same day its football team played for the CIFSS Pac-5 championship in football, Corona Centennial’s boys basketball team downed CIF state open division title contender Etiwanda, 67-63. Sedrick Barefield leads comeback victory, as Etiwanda coach Dave Kleckner is denied 500th career win.
Saturday was a big day for the Centennial of Corona athletic program. The football team played the state’s top-ranked team (St. John Bosco of Bellflower) for the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 title at Anaheim Stadium and when the Huskies squeaked by Bishop Amat of La Puente in last Friday’s semifinal, it looked like Centennial fans would have to choose between a Saturday night of watching the Pac-5 final at the big stadium or watching the highly-regarded boys’ basketball team play Etiwanda in a battle of teams ranked in the preseason GrassrootsHoops.net FAB 50 national rankings.
Centennial’s Tip-Off At The Empire originally was slated to be a bracket-style tournament, but with some teams dropping out it turned into a round-robin and the Centennial-Etiwanda game was originally slated for Saturday evening. When Centennial advanced to the Pac-5 title game in football, Centennial coach Josh Giles reached out on Monday to Etiwanda coach Dave Kleckner to request the game be moved to an earlier start so Huskies’ fans could watch both games.
In perhaps a good omen for the football team, Centennial rode the clutch second half play of senior point guard Sedrick Barefield to pull out a 67-63 victory in a Inland Empire showdown involving state and nationally-ranked teams. Centennial opened the season as the top-ranked team in Southern California by Cal-Hi Sports (No. 2 in the state behind Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland) and No. 12 in the GrassrootsHoops.net FAB 50. Etiwanda was ranked No. 5 in the state and No. 26 nationally.
Etiwanda (2-2) outplayed the Huskies for most of the first three quarters of the game. Centennial was settling for jumpers while Etiwanda’s guards and wings were driving to the basket and racking up fouls and free throw attempts. Centennial (3-0) was trailing by 10 points when Barefield, bound for SMU to play for hall of fame coach Larry Brown, scored 11 unanswered points to close the third quarter. He ended the sequence with a 3-pointer, a steal and driving lay-up and finally another 3-pointer as the third quarter buzzer sounded. Barefield’s second 3-pointer of the sequence gave Centennial a 44-43 lead entering the final period.
Etiwanda, which lost its first game of the season on Friday 61-59 to a Great Oak of Temecula team Centennial defeated 86-59, rallied from that surge to again take control of the game in the final period. In fact, Etiwanda led 63-58 with one minute and a half remaining, but Barefield struck again. His 3-pointer with 1:25 sparked the Huskies, as that triple was followed by a big-time blocked shot by sophomore center Jalen Hill and a tear drop shot by Barefield with 45 seconds remaining. After that play, Centennial came up with a steal near mid-court and the sequence concluded with a foul on Centennial guard Chris Famous.
Centennial eventually took a 66-63 lead, and with 6.8 seconds to go, Etiwanda junior point guard Garrett Carter got a clean look from 3-point range off a pick and roll with center Jordan Naughton, but his shot was off. Jordan Griffin of Centennial was fouled with just under three seconds remaining and nailed the second free throw to account for the final score.
Barefield finished with 30 points, while Hill had 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. Senior guard Khalil Ahmad battled foul trouble, as did fellow senior starter Kyle Hamilton, but was able to contribute 15 points, three rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot.
“Barefield took over down the stretch and, our guys, it looked like we got a bit tight,” said Etiwanda head coach Dave Kleckner. “We missed a ton of free throws and that hurt us.”
The Eagles made 19-of-33 shots from the charity stripe. Carter finished with 22 points. Senior wing Delewis Johnson led Etiwanda with 27 points. He added five rebounds while Naughton finished with nine boards.
Barefield’s heroics (and the upset win by Great Oak) prevented Kleckner from winning the 500th game of his career. As it stands, Kleckner has a 499-157 career won-loss mark as he enters his 19th season as Etiwanda’s head coach after four years at Montclair High School.