Their success on the court, according to head coach Robert White, comes courtesy of a lockdown defense, which is allowing a region-leading 38 points per game.
“Our strength has been our defense,” said White, now in his third year as head coach. “Our goal every game is [to allow] less than 40 and the girls have bought into that defensive mentality.”
The Lady Knights have held 11 of their 17 opponents this year under that 40-point benchmark, including twice last weekend in wins against West Forsyth (58-25) and South Cobb (70-33).
“We play a lot of man-to-man and we like to press when we feel there is opportunity,” said the Centennial coach. “Chelsea Reese’s play has stood out defensively; she is fast, hustles and causes a lot of problems for opponents.
“Asia Mitchell has also done a great job on post defense, despite giving up [size] to other post players, she is very effective.”
The defensive efforts, along with some timely offense from players like Paige Elliot, Lauren Spence and Becca Davis, has Centennial just two victories short of the school-record (16) for wins, set in 2004-2005. Centennial is also 6-2 in 6AAAAAA play and hopeful of making just their second trip to the state playoffs in school history — also done in 2004-2005.
White said their play has been far from surprising to him and he had a feeling this year’s team had a chance to be special before the season even tipped off.
“We had a great summer and went to a team camp at the University of North Carolina and won every game. The team really came together there, so our success hasn’t been a surprise to me.”
He also pointed out the team’s ability to stay poised in a late-game situations as a key to their improved record and something that will be vital when they get to tournament play in February.
“In the past we seemed to panic when the game was tight, but a big difference for us this year has been our maturity,” said White, whose team is 8-1 this season in games decided by 10 points or less. “We no longer give up the ball down the stretch, and we are much more composed.”
The Lady Knights will try to keep things rolling this weekend when they host Chattahoochee Friday in a region game then take on Walton Saturday.