DUNCANVILLE — Corona Centennial (Calif.) is ranked third in MaxPreps’ national top 25. It won a state championship in California last season. It entered Saturday’s game at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest on a 34-game win streak, with just one loss since the start of the 2021-22 season.
Now it has two losses. Both are to Duncanville.
Duncanville (5-0), No. 2 in MaxPreps’ national rankings, beat Centennial 59-57 on Saturday behind 24 points from five-star Texas signee Ron Holland. Duncanville beat Centennial one year ago to the day, also at Hoopfest, in a game which Holland scored 28.
In its last three games versus California teams, Duncanville is 3-0 with two wins over Centennial and another against national powerhouse Sierra Canyon.
“It’s an elephant in the room, with the whole world asking ‘who is the mecca of basketball right now?’” Holland said. “Cali, Texas, New York, those are the top states people are talking about. You got a team [Centennial] winning like that back in their state, and with how we’re winning? It’s a great match up.”
After a tied first quarter, Centennial led by five points at halftime and had ground Duncanville’s offense to a halt. But Holland — who scored a team-high 25 points in Duncanville’s win over nationally-ranked Columbus (Fla.) on Friday — caught fire.
The 6-8 forward, between the third and fourth quarters, scored 12 consecutive points for Duncanville, and tied the game at 53-53 midway through the fourth quarter after he forced a turnover at half court and stormed the other way for a layup.
Holland added a dunk with 4:22 remaining, and Arizona pledge KJ Lewis scored four points in the game’s final 2:40 to keep Centennial at bay. Lewis and Rasaun Collier helped force a turnover on Centennial’s final possession with under 10 seconds left in the game.
“Ron is not going to let us lose,” Duncanville coach Neiman Ford said. “I told him that at halftime, ‘I know you’re not going to let us lose.’”
Said Holland: “I finally said, [my defender] can’t hold me. I need to quit playing around and start going up.”
Sophomore Kayden Edwards added 12 points — all on 3-pointers — for Duncanville. Three-star senior forward Aaron McBride scored 17 points for Centennial, while five-star Duke pledge Jared McCain was held to 8 points on 3-for-16 shooting.
Duncanville, 6A state champions in 2019 and 2021, appeared as animated as ever after the win. Ford walked across the court pumping his fist and yelling moments after the final buzzer. Screams could be heard from Duncanville’s locker room even after the team had been huddled in there for over a minute.
“Man, that’s a great team,” Ford said of Centennial. “They’ve only lost one game in two years, and if it wasn’t for us, they’d be on a  game winning streak. They’re the reigning champions in California, we’re the reigning champions in Texas (Duncanville beat McKinney in last year’s 6A state title game, though it was stripped by the UIL in October for use of an ineligible player). It’s big when Texas and California go against each other.”
Lake Highlands puts world on notice
Think of this as Lake Highlands’ official notice to those who didn’t already know.
The state’s top-ranked 6A team in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches poll is the real deal.
Behind 17 points and 11 rebounds from senior Samson Aletan, Lake Highlands (4-1) beat nationally-ranked Cardinal Hayes (N.Y) 72-55 on Saturday. Five-star junior Tre Johnson — the country’s top recruit in the class of 2024 — scored 15 points and recorded 6 rebounds.
Cardinal Hayes is No. 9 in MaxPreps’ national top 25. ESPN ranks it 23rd. Lake Highlands, unranked in both polls, never trailed and led by 13 points after the first quarter and 17 at halftime.
“We’ve got amazing ball handlers, we’ve got Tre Johnson, who’s the No. 1 player in the country and he proves it ever day,” Aletan, a Yale signee, said. “And we’ve got me as an anchor inside .. we’re not scared of anyone.”
Johnson, a 6-5 guard who averaged 23.7 points as a sophomore and is considered one of the nation’s best pure scorers, surely got his by game’s end. But it was seniors Jaylen Washington (15 points) and Quinton Perkins (14 points, three 3-pointers) that helped Lake Highlands to its early lead.
“Both those guys are just really tough, really good all-around basketball players,” Lake Highlands coach Joe Duffield said. “They want the big time match ups.”
This game had that. Cardinal Hayes features junior Ian Jackson — a five-star recruit and the No. 2 player in the class of 2024 — and Elijah Moore, a four-star junior recruit. Jackson scored a game-high 23 points while Moore added 8.
Saturday’s game was billed as a showdown of the nation’s top juniors. Johnson, ranked first by both ESPN and 247Sports.com, will relish in the victory.
“I try not to care about any media headlines like that,” Johnson said. “Whenever I’m guarding somebody else’s best player, I’m trying to show that I can play defense too.”
With Duncanville — largely considered the state’s top team and winners of the 2019 and 2021 6A state champions — out of this season’s postseason after its school district chose to opt out and avoid further UIL penalties, the 6A state title race is more wide open this season than years past.
Lake Highlands (which lost to Duncanville by a single point one week prior to its game against Cardinal Hayes) showed Saturday that it may be the new favorite.
“You see and hear all that stuff with Duncanville, which has been the team to beat the last three or four years, and we have a ton of respect for them,” Duffield said. “We’re just taking things one day at a time, one game at a time.
“But I know this: We love our team.”
Carter, Faith Family show 4A runs through Dallas
Two Dallas boys basketball teams sit atop the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ statewide 4A rankings.
Carter at one, Oak Cliff Faith Family at two.
Both showed why on Saturday.
Carter (4-1) executed a defensive clinic in a 41-34 win over Vashon (Mo.), the No. 26 team in MaxPreps’ national rankings. A regional finalist one season ago, Carter trailed by eight points through three quarters but outscored Vashon 17-2 in the fourth.
“We saw them against Kimball yesterday, and they didn’t handle pressure very well,” Carter coach Lyndon Love said. “We’re a bigger team. Once the pressure started going, they turned the ball over and things started going.”
Carter’s early-season resume is already a strong one. It beat Kimball — the state’s top-ranked 5A team — in overtime last Friday. It also beat South Oak Cliff, the state’s No. 14 5A team, and lost to to back-to-back 5A state champions Beaumont United by just four points.
“Our schedule is always beefed up,” Love said. “But I think this is probably the toughest schedule we’ve ever played.”
There’s a reason. Behind Carter in the statewide rankings is Faith Family, which won last year’s 4A state title and eliminated Carter from the postseason each of the last two seasons.
Faith Family (8-0) beat Oklahoma’s Edmund North 52-51, as senior New Mexico signee Jadyn Toppin sank a go-ahead free throw with 2.7 seconds left in the game. Toppin finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds while junior Isaac Williams scored a team-high 15.
“That championship DNA, it runs through the program,” Thomas said. “This year’s field in 4A is probably going to be one of the toughest ever. Carter has already beaten Kimball and South Oak Cliff. Booker T beat Beaumont United, Carter barely lost to Beaumont. Pinkston has one of the best players in the country [in four-star junior guard Dink Pate].
“It’s going to be really, really tough in 4A.”
DeSoto girls lose on buzzer-beater in nationally-ranked showdown:
DeSoto (5-2), the state’s fourth-ranked 6A girls basketball team, lost to nationally-ranked Montverde Academy (Fla.) 40-38 on Saturday.
Senior Ahmir Wall scored a team-high 12 points for DeSoto, the reigning 6A state champions and No. 17 team nationally, per ESPN. Montverde, ranked fifth, was led by 11 points from four-star Kentucky signee Jordy Griggs. Montverde senior Cori Allen, an Illinois signee, hit a game-winning buzzer beater to sink DeSoto.
Rising up: Photos from DeSoto’s matchup with Montverde Academy at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest