Knotted in a three-way tie with Alpharetta and Chattahoochee, the Knights (2-1 in region play) are entering the New Year looking to distance themselves from the pack and make a charge towards their first region championship since 2006-2007.
“The region is pretty balanced as I see it,” said Centennial head coach Joe Eineker, now in his third year at the end of the Knights’ bench. “Alpharetta was in the Final Four last year so you have to say they are the favorite and Chattahoochee beat them so you know they are good, but for the first time in a few years we like our chances of making a run towards a region title.”
Centennial went 15-14 and 16-12 in Eineker’s first two years as head coach, making the state playoffs both years and extending the school’s streak of tournament appearances to seven in a row.
Butt the Centennial coach’s optimism towards taking another step forward this year revolves around what he described as a small, but deep and talented roster full of experienced players and interchangeable parts.
Eineker’s starting lineup consists of seniors Ethan Mayo, Aaron Mayo, Christian Lynch, Will Perry and junior Xavier Jackson. All five stand between 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-5, all five can handle the ball and all five can run the court — giving the Knights one of their most athletic starting fives in recent memory.
“We are guard oriented, with a ton of quickness and athletic ability, so we’ve done what we can to turn each game into a full-court thing. If we can get the tempo up like we want it, we’re comfortable with our ability to play against anyone [in the state].”
The Knights have shown that ability against a number of the state’s best this season, using a stingy defense that is allowing just 55 points per game to beat region rival Chattahoochee (58-57) in mid-December while also topping Stephenson (48-44) and South Gwinnett (49-42) in non-region play.
“Our defense has been the biggest thing for us, just by being active and athletic we have done a good job defending most teams. Offensively we just spread teams out around the perimeter and play unselfish basketball,” said Eineker.
“So far our guys have done a good job of those things and played really well.”
The Knights will look to improve their region record with a pair of winnable region games in the next week — versus South Forsyth (0-2 in region play) on Friday and at Johns Creek (1-2) Tuesday.