Centennial boys earn first playoff berth in 10 years

Centennial senior wing Koby Jones turns the corner on the baseline against Poston Butte's Logan Hatch (#32) and Cory Barnes (#2) during Friday's 5A boys basketball play-in game at Centennial. [Donna Mundy/For West Valley Preps]

Phillip Gibbs
For West Valley Preps

The Poston Butte Broncos came into Friday’s play-in round match-up against Centennial boasting the better record at 21-7, while host Centennial was 13-13 and fresh off a loss to rival Liberty that would have ensured them a region title.

The Coyotes looked to avoid losing two straight at home and costing them a spot in the tournament. And eventually, they proved the validity of their No. 13 seed.

Centennial anchored by a strong group of seniors, including Kyle Shough, Payton Nelson, Koby Jones, and Trent Washington, went on to win tonight, 75-65, in hard fought match that was back and forth. That victory sealed the program’s first playoff berth in 10 years.

“I told them this could be the last game of their careers and we didn’t want to go out losing two at home,” said first-year Centennial head coach Randy Lavender.

Centennial has seven seniors who survive to play another high school game.

Coyotes senior forward Koby Jones did his part in staving off a Broncos offensive onslaught in the first quarter. The Broncos went up 10-2 with 3:30 played but Jones responded by scoring nine of the Coyotes next 15 points in the quarter, leading them on a 15-5 run and into the second on top 17-15.

Jones scored 11 of the Coyotes 17 points in the quarter.

Both teams struggled offensively in the second but what Centennial lacked in offense they made up for in defense keeping the game tight with stout defense in the paint, blocking several would-be field goal attempts.

Poston Butte’s hard-driving guard Jacob Motley sparked his team offensively in the third, converting on back-to-back and one plays with less than two minutes played in the quarter. Motley finished the game with 22 points leading his team in the losing effort.

“He’s the leading scorer on their team for a reason. We tried to stay in front of him, but we struggled to,” Lavender said.

The Broncos’ Kevin Johnson got in on the action as well, converting another 3-point play at the 4:45 mark giving the Broncos the lead 35-32.

Centennial maintained the defensive pressure in the third and began crashing the boards going up 37-36 on a Trent Washington put-back.

“I think it helped that we were able to be more assertive. In the third Trent Washington started to crash the boards hard and got a couple of good put backs and dunks.” said Lavender.

The Broncos did not go away without a fight and were still within striking range down 47-41 moving into the fourth.

Poston Butte’s Pierce Anderson hit a big three to bring the Broncos within three points down 60-57 with 2:57 remaining to play. That’s when two more of those Coyote seniors, Kyle Shough and Payton Nelson, put the finishing touches on the game hitting clutch buckets late putting their team up 67-57 with 1:45 remaining en route to the 75-65 win.

“We had a lot of momentum there. In the end we had a tough time defending their pick and roll and getting defensive rebounds. We were down three with two minutes and a chance to get a defensive rebound. They got the offensive rebound and then a three. We weren’t able to come back from that,” said Broncos head coach Mike Christonson.

“We played very hard and fought. I am very proud of my guys,” Christonson added.

Centennial will be away next Tuesday as they move onto the first round of the tournament. Upsets of region rivals Liberty and Shadow Ridge will bump the Coyotes to the No. 11 seed.

Their destination will be unveiled Saturday afternoon, but a trip to Tucson or the East Valley seems likely.

“It’s a quick turn-around. Tuesday we’ll be on the road and we either win or go home. They’ve got to want more,” added coach Lavender when asked about the first round game.

Centennial senior forward Trenton Washington goes up for a layup during Friday’s play-in game against Poston Butte. [Donna Mundy/For West Valley Preps]

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