Centennial High School girls basketball coach Darrin Green wants his team to play the same pressure defense it utilized last season while going 18-5 overall for one of the best seasons in program history.
Not only did the Stars finish second (12-2) in the City League-North Division, they also won two Division II district tournament games, beating Lakewood 45-34 in the first round and Columbus East 52-40 in the second round.
But the third-seeded Stars scored only two points in the fourth quarter of a 41-34 loss to top-seeded Jonathan Alder in a district semifinal, so Green said he has been putting a stronger emphasis on offensive execution in practices.
Centennial opened Nov. 27 at Westland and begins league play Friday, Nov. 30, by playing host to Mifflin.
"I'm a defense-first kind of coach and we want to be a strong defensive team right away," said Green, who is in his second season. "We won last year by playing good pressure defense, both man-to-man and zone, and our defense will need to be that good or even better for us to be a winning team again this year.
"But we learned in our loss to Jonathan Alder that we also need to be able to put up more points than we did last year to take our team to the next level, so we've been working on being more productive with our scoring, too. We have more players who can score on this team than we had last year, so it's just a matter of executing and making our shots."
Two starters have returned in 5-foot-9 sophomore forward Marissa Robertson and 5-7 sophomore point guard Isabella Luaces.
Last season, Luaces averaged 6.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals, while Robertson averaged 5.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals.
Senior forward Brook Briggs, who averaged 4.3 rebounds last season, is Centennial's only other returning letterwinner.
Rounding out the roster are 5-8 senior forward Aubri Caslin, 5-9 junior small forward Brianne Stephenson, 5-10 junior power forward/center Aryn Brnusak, 5-6 freshman guard Akiya Brown, 5-7 freshman point guard Alyssa Dean and 5-11 freshman guard/forward DeAuja Thompson.
"Most of our girls can play a lot of different positions and we're going to be a hard team to guard because everyone can handle the ball," Green said. "The girls have put a lot of work into basketball and I can go nine deep into my roster and be equally confident in any of them, so our lineup has been changing all the time.
"We have more basketball talent than we had last year, so I'm just trying to get them to execute and play defense the way we need to play defense."
Last season in the City-North, Centennial finished behind Northland (14-0) and ahead of Brookhaven (10-4), Mifflin (8-6), East (5-9), Whetstone (4-10), Beechcroft (3-11) and Linden-McKinley (0-14).
Green said the Stars have set some lofty goals.
"Our two biggest goals are to get to the City League championship game and to get to the district championship game," he said. "Of course, once we get there, my goal will be to win those games, but we're focusing on getting there first. I've set our goals high for this season, but with the talent we have, I feel like setting them any lower wouldn't do this team justice."