Knights Three-Peat At Centennial's Expense

With three minutes left in the CIF-Southern Section Div. III-A final and Centennial of Compton holding a five-point lead over Bishop Montgomery, it appeared as if the Apaches would continue their season without a blemish on their record. But you have to play a full 32 minutes to defeat the two-time defending state champs. Centennial (28-1) did not and lost to the Knights, 57-55 Saturday morning at the Pond in Anaheim.

Up three points in a tightly contested game between two ultra-quick, free-wheeling teams after Darius Sanders converted inside off a sweet dish from Jonathan Smith, Centennial suffered a momentary lapse and allowed Bishop guard Ryan Howard to drift free outside the three-point arc. His long-range bomb was pure and knotted the game at 55 apiece with 40 ticks left.

Eschewing the timeout, the Apaches raced up the court. Arron Affalo found a lane to the hoop, but overcooked his lay-up attempt and fouled Jason Estrada struggling to snare the board. After Estrada converted one free throw, Affalo was off to the races again, but his lay-up attempt with 9.4 seconds left was rejected by Fred Washington.

"Brandon [Peace] kind of forced him to my side," explained Washington, who finished with four blocks on the game. "He went up like I wasn't there."

One more Bishop free throw gave the Apaches one more shot with less than 10 seconds to play. Only three-for-20 from three-point range, the plan obviously was to try and jam the ball inside to Sanders, who'd been unstoppable all morning. But Gavin Lee had him locked up, forcing Centennial to lob the ball over the pressure to 5-8 guard Michael Gordon. His shot in traffic clanged off the glass and the game belonged to Bishop Montgomery.

It was the third straight year the Knights had upended Centennial in a CIF final. "My heart goes out to them because we know what that's like," said Bishop coach Doug Mitchell, who himself lost his first three tries at a title. "But if you put yourself in that position, good things will happen."

Washington led the Knights (24-7) with 21 points and 10 rebounds. No other Bishop player scored in double figures. Peace had seven points, six rebounds and four steals.

Sanders scored 20 for Centennial, but only was able to get off 12 shots in a game in which he clearly was the most physical player on the floor. Sterling Byrd scored 13 points and Gabe Pruitt 12 in the losing effort.

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