With no state championship as a final moment for the second straight season, we go back again to our longstanding tradition of naming a State Team of the Year for girls basketball that has been done for every season since 1972. Following La Jolla Country Day for last season, the only choice for 2021 is CIF SoCal Open Division winner Centennial of Corona, which defeated Mater Dei of Santa Ana, 65-51, on Saturday night to avenge its only loss.
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(Associate editor Harold Abend contributed to this article)
It was a race to the top for the Centennial of Corona girls basketball team. It just took until the final night of the season for the Huskies to end up standing alone on the state’s No. 1 pedestal.
Head coach Martin Woods’ girls won the CIF Southern California Open Division regional title on Saturday night with a 65-51 triumph over host Mater Dei of Santa Ana, to avenge their only loss. And today, the Huskies are officially on the board as the 2021 Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year.
“Oh Wow…wow. I’m floored. That’s amazing to hear and I appreciate it,” was Woods’ initial reaction to being told Centennial was the State Team of the Year. “When we do what we do as coaches and players we strive to be the best you can be. Winning State Team of the Year validates all the sacrifices by the coaching staff, the players, their parents, and everyone associated with the program.”
At the very beginning of the season in California, it was a tough call at the top of the state rankings between Mater Dei and Archbishop Mitty of San Jose (based on returning starters).
It didn’t take long for the impact of a key transfer to Centennial — UCLA committed point guard Londynn Jones — to show that another team would have to be in that discussion and then by the time of the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs it generally became a two-team debate for the state No. 1 ranking between the Huskies and Mater Dei. Neither of the teams had lost while Mitty took a loss in its first game to St. Mary’s of Stockton.
Both teams won their games in the CIFSS pool play format of playoff games in its Open Division, setting up a No. 1 vs. No. 2 state rankings matchup last week in the title game. That game was played at Centennial since it was the top seed. In the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings, Mater Dei stayed No. 1 since it hadn’t lost, either.
What transpired in that first matchup was a masterpiece of great plays and high-level execution that had the assembled media scribes raving about it. The game went to overtime and Mater Dei won, 83-80.
There had been discussion that the Monarchs — or at least its All-American player, Brooke Demetre — might opt out of the regionals. But almost as soon as the sweat was dry from the uniforms, Demetre said she was in and so were the Monarchs.
The two teams were then obviously seeded No. 1 and No. 2 for the SoCal Open Division. Mater Dei had a first-round bye and then won at home in the regional semifinals over CIF San Diego Section Open Division champion Cathedral Catholic. Centennial won its games over La Jolla Country Day (the 2020 CIF SoCal Open champ and State Team of Year) and Clovis West of Fresno (which was previously unbeaten). The rematch was on.
Despite the game being at Mater Dei, the Huskies didn’t win in a similar overtime thriller. They won by the more convincing 14-point margin. Mater Dei got the lead down to one point in the third quarter, but Centennial made its free throws down the stretch.
Perhaps the most stunning differences in the two games was the Stanford-bound Demetre being held to just two points on Saturday by a stingy Huskies’ defense compared to the 28 she had in the first matchup. Jayda Curry once again showed how wrong people who do McDonald’s All-American selections and other recruiting lists they have been about her. The Cal-bound Curry led the way for Centennial in the second game with 27 points and had 23 in the loss.
Jones, who had 25 in the first game vs. Mater Dei, hit for 18 in the second game. Junior guard Sydni Summers also was stellar for Centennial with 15 points. While Demetre was held down, teammates Alyssa Durazo-Frescas (18 points) and Soleil Montrose (10 points) did their best to keep the Monarchs close.
“We watched film and we saw all the mistakes, the communication errors, and the mental breakdowns during the loss and we knew that if we did what we’ve done all season defensively the outcome in last night’s game would be different,” Woods said. “We executed and the result was in our favor.”
And now to some history for Woods and his girls. They are No. 1 for the state in the second straight season in which there has not been a CIF state championship due to the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. There was an unbeaten team in the north that should get a shoutout — Pinewood of Los Altos Hills — and one never knows how a CIF state final would play out. Still, Cal-Hi Sports makes it a point to actually see as many teams as possible and for the girls associate editor Harold Abend criss-crossed the state twice to see all of the top teams. The fact that there was no CIF state final doesn’t matter for State Team of the Year. Those were started in the 1970s before there were even CIF state finals and there have been years when the CIFSS wasn’t in it.
In gaining the State Team of the Year honor for 2020-21, Centennial also makes Inland Empire history since it is only the second girls team from the region to ever finish in that position. Woods and his girls will love to know that the only other Inland Empire state No. 1 team — and a team that actually did it twice — was Riverside Poly for 1981 and 1982. Those were teams led by the legendary Cheryl Miller, still regarded by many as the best women’s basketball player ever. She is still the best player we’ve ever seen.
“To be mentioned in the same breath of a team that featured, arguably the greatest women’s basketball player of all time, is unfathomable yet humbling,” Woods said. “With all the hard work, sacrifice, and commitment done by all involved it’s been a long time coming for our program.”
Cal-Hi Sports Girls Basketball
State Teams of the Year All-Time List
2021 – Corona Centennial (25-1)
2020 – La Jolla Country Day (32-1)
2019 – Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (33-1)
2018 – Los Angeles Windward (27-3)
2017 – Fresno Clovis West (34-2)
2016 – West Hills Chaminade (31-4)
2015 – Stockton St. Mary’s (34-1)
2014 – Long Beach Poly (27-3)
2013 – Oakland Bishop O’Dowd (30-3)
2012 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-3)
2011 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (34-1)
2010 – Santa Ana Mater Dei (32-1)
2009 – Brea Olinda Brea (33-2)
2008 – San Francisco Sacred Heart Cathedral
2007 – Long Beach Poly (36-1)
2006 – Fullerton Troy (33-1)
2005 – Piedmont (32-2)
2004 – Piedmont (33-2)
2003 – Lynwood (32-1)
2002 – Lynwood (32-0)
2001 – Harbor City Narbonne (28-3)
2000 – Harbor City Narbonne (34-0)
1999 – San Jose Archbishop Mitty (31-0)
1998 – Harbor City Narbonne (32-1)*
1997 – Berkeley (29-3)
1996 – Irvine Woodbridge (32-2)
1995 – Irvine Woodbridge (33-1)
1994 – Brea Olinda Brea (33-0)
1993 – Lynwood (31-0)
1992 – RH Estates Peninsula (33-0)
1991 – Berkeley (30-2)
1990 – Inglewood Morningside (32-3)
1989 – Inglewood Morningside (33-1)
1988 – Fremont Oakland (28-0)**
1987 – San Diego Point Loma (34-0)
1986 – San Diego Point Loma (31-1)
1985 – Compton (26-0)
1984 – Ventura Buena (31-0)
1983 – Ventura Buena (28-4)
1982 – Riverside Poly (34-0)
1981 – Riverside Poly (29-0)
1980 – Berkeley (29-0)
1979 – Woodland Hills El Camino Real (19-0)
1978 – Huntington Beach (25-2)
1977 – Los Angeles (16-0)
1976 – Ventura (23-0)
1975 – Chula Vista Hilltop (18-0)
1974 – Berkeley (19-1)
1973 – Fresno San Joaquin Memorial (12-0)
1972 – Ventura Buena (8-0)
*Forfeit losses not included. CIF Division I state title vacated due to residency issues.
**Eleven wins forfeited due to use of ineligible player.