Centennial High has become one of the top athletic programs in the area, with powerhouses in several sports. The Coyotes are defending back-to-back 5A state champions and the softball team reached the 5A final in 2019, just to name a couple.
Celebrating a win in summer league at Central High, the Centennial boys’ basketball team hopes this season can be the tipping point for the basketball team to earn the same recognition as the other quality teams the Coyotes boast.
“We want to prove that we deserve as much respect as they do,” senior guard Jojo Rincon said.
Despite feeling slightly overshadowed by the football team, the current seniors are no strangers to success. Several were sophomore contributors on the 2017-18 season who saw the Coyotes reach the 5A state semifinals, and juniors on last year’s team who were blown out by McClintock in the first round.
Rincon obviously enjoyed the 2017-18 finish much more. The Coyotes want to get back to that point.
“We’ve been up at near the top, and also not up there, and we know what both feel like. And the younger guys are looking at us to lead them back up to the top again,” he said.
The Coyotes will practice and play together throughout June, competing in several summer tournaments and leagues, and most of the players will compete on club teams after that. But, when the regular season comes around October, Centennial will bring back several of its top players from seasons past.
Of last year’s starting five, four return for another ride together. As a group, they have battled together through ups and downs, and have grown to enjoy one-another’s company as both teammates and close friends.
Senior forward David Teibo describes Centennial practices as “heated.” Because the players are so familiar, and each wants to win so badly in their final season, the expectations are high for one-another, and sometimes that passion causes outbursts on the court.
“During practice we’ll argue. We’ll get on each other, but at the end of the day we’ll hug and we’re brothers. I think that actually helps us,” Teibo said.
Those moments throughout the years have actually brought the players closer together, the early foundation of what could prove an exciting season.
Teibo and the other seniors feel they have a legitimate shot to capture a state championship to finish off their high school careers come February.
But, there is a lot of basketball still to be played, including summer championships and early-season practice. The team looks ready to play at a high level right now, but coach Randy Lavender said the Coyotes are just getting started.
“I actually am expecting to get even better after all this, I don’t want to peak yet,” he said. “That comes later.