A year after winning the school's first state championship at State Fair Arena, the second-ranked Bison did it once again, with a 49-38 win over Victory Christian Saturday morning in the Class 3A title game.
But this wasn't your typical case of a repeat champion.
The Bison graduated three senior starters from last season, were forced to turn to a group of sophomores and freshmen for vital contributions and nearly got eliminated from the playoffs more than once. But in the end, the gold ball was theirs once again.
“It's better than the first one,” said Da'Sean Carolina, one of two Centennial seniors along with Prince Thompson. “It's terrific. Everybody did their jobs. We were here as a team, and we pulled this off as a team.”
Sophomore forward Austin Garner had a team-high 12 points and nine rebounds, while freshman Terry Davis had two crucial steals and scored all seven of his points in the second half to help the second-ranked Bison put the game away in the final minutes.
Junior Trevon Threat turned in a do-it-all performance for the Bison with nine points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
“As seniors, we were trying to let everybody grow up,” Carolina said. “I was telling the juniors, you know, you're a senior now. Freshmen, you're sophomores now. Everybody played up to that. We just came together and won.”
The Bison were able to limit 6-foot-7 Victory forward L.J. Ross to three points, often using 6-foot-7 Garner behind him and an athletic guard like Threat in front. The Bison went 22-8, but were staring at elimination multiple times in the last two weeks.
After an upset loss to Kingfisher, they barely got into the state tournament with a 48-45 win over Stroud, then went two overtimes in beating Keys (Park Hill) in the state quarterfinals.
On Friday, Centennial had to hold off a strong rally by Millwood, and the young team finished the job on Saturday.
“Last year, I was just sitting there watching and thinking, ‘I can't wait ‘til my freshman year so I can be out there on the court with them and win one with them,'” said Davis, who watched last year's championship game from the bleachers as an eighth-grader.
“This team was so young, and they've had to go through things other teams this young haven't had to go through,” Raper said. “It was tremendous to watch. We started counting down practices with 26. I would keep reminding them, yeah, there's an end, and you get to choose when your end is.
“I'm pretty happy with the end they chose.”