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Aaron McBride’s buzzer-beating dunk lifts Corona Centennial to Open Division title

It will go down in the books as one of the best endings in Southern Section history.

A mistake from seeing his team’s three-peat dreams for the Open Division crown extinguished, Corona Centennial’s Aaron McBride was in the right place at the right time. Bellflower St. John Bosco’s Elzie Harrington turned, desperate for an opening, and made a pass to Brandon McCoy with five seconds remaining with the score tied.

But McBride, the regular Centennial senior, was there to tip it off and chase the loose ball. He picked it up and dribbled, and with a second left, his feet dropped just inside the free-throw line.

McBride hit the buzzer and an arena of 12,501 fans shook, with teammate Devin Williams’ eyes bulging and vocal cords thundering.

Champions. Again, and again and again. The McBride ending was a shock punctuation for a 58-56 victory and Open Division title, making Centennial the first program to achieve three-peat in the section’s top division.

“Regular season, playoffs, that’s the craziest ending ever,” said coach Josh Giles.

On Saturday night at Honda Center, the Huskies won with the same principles that have defined them for three years. With a relentless defense, blazing transition attacks, and the steady leadership and ferocious competitiveness of seniors McBride and Jared McCain, they have the experience to weather any storm.

Three straight Open titles. Good luck finding a program to replicate that.

“I love you,” McCain told McBride. “So much.”

On paper, the Centennial title seemed inevitable for much of the season. But beneath the surface, championship fatigue was no longer an abstract idea – it was, to Giles’s frustration, extremely real.

There were times in the middle of a 29-3 season when Giles felt his group, after two straight Open titles, was bored. Certainly, McCain had this third straight championship as his only high school team goal. But Giles spoke like a prophet of doom in January, warning of a letdown if the Huskies didn’t step up their game. Speaking of defense, Giles noted, had become an “act of God.”

“Dude needs to go do his job,” Giles said then. “We have 15 or 16 guys, this is the biggest roster I’ve ever had, and I’m now asking myself why.”

In late January, their penultimate regular season game of the season, Centennial took a 26-point lead over Eastvale Roosevelt early in the second quarter—and blew it. By the fourth quarter, the Huskies trailed by five and went on to pull off a sloppy 77–71 victory.

When they played like that during the playoffs, Giles told his team, “You turn in your uniform next week.”

But the Huskies survived Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, defeated Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and Torrance Bishop Montgomery and rolled into Saturday’s Finals against an underdog St. John Bosco team that had surprised Studio City Harvard-Westlake in pool play.

Underdog to everyone except, well, them.

“The general perception is probably that we’re a year ahead of people thought,” said St. John Bosco coach Matt Dunn of a roster that has a lot of underclassmen, “but that’s probably not an understanding of the culture our senior guys bring on a daily basis. .”

And on Saturday night, Centennial took every ounce he had, facing a Bosco group of crafty shotmakers, aggressive rebounders, and well-equipped defensive to take on any Huskies challenge.

But composure and champion DNA in big moments is almost always undefeated.

And after a few minutes of back and forth, it was the quiet senior McBride – first with a jump shot to tie the score, then the stunning dunk – who came through.