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This trio of captains helps make Centennial girls successful

Corona Centennial girls' basketball team captains Trinity San Antonio, Jayda Curry, and Londynn Jones gather for a photo.
(Luca Evans / For The Times)

Londynn Jones crashes to the hardwood, a rebound escaping her. She frowns, getting to her feet.

“If you pushin’, then …” she mutters. Her Corona Centennial High teammate repositions herself above the three-point line, readying herself to chase another rebound in this boxout drill.

Coach Martin Woods puts up another shot, and Jones explodes toward the rim. The junior hip-checks that same teammate, putting a little force into it, coming down with the ball. Satisfied, she jogs back into line.

The Centennial girls’ basketball team does not waste time with offensive drills in practices like these Monday afternoons. Woods lets them play freely on that end. They have sharpshooters in Jones and senior Jayda Curry, who each average more than 20 points a game, and slashers like senior Trinity San Antonio.

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What they lack, however, is a big. That’s required a complete commitment in terms of a scrappy, quick-tempo team identity. The catalyst to that mentality, Woods says, has been the leadership and day-in, day-out work ethic of captains Jones, Curry and San Antonio — and that trio has led Centennial to a record of 19-0 heading into the Southern Section playoffs.

“Big-dog mentality, even though we’re not big,” San Antonio said.

San Antonio drew an invisible triangle in the air with her finger when describing the trio. They balance each other out, she said. Each has their own particular leadership style.

Jones, a lightning-quick lefty nicknamed the “Tasmanian Devil” who has committed to UCLA, isn’t shy about letting teammates know exactly what she expects from them on any particular play. At the same time, she feels she’s a lead-by-example type. Jones leads the team in steals per game with 4.2 and three-pointers made per game at 3.2, shooting 42% from deep.

As long as they have that “dog” in them, she said, the team will be just fine.

“For me, there’s no days off,” Jones said. “If I’m not taking days off and I’m going 100% on you, that’s only getting you better.”

San Antonio, meanwhile, is the “Energizer Bunny,” the one who galvanizes the team on days when its tank is running empty. She was more reserved last season, Woods said. She’s developed the habit of organizing in-game and in-practice huddles with her teammates to talk through mistakes.

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“She goes a mile a minute, she’s always working hard,” Curry said. “I think people and our teammates take a lot from that.”

Curry is the vocal leader of the group, the most prevalent voice on the floor. As a four-year starter, she’s learned how to manage personality types, changing her tone as she holds individual conversations with different teammates.

Mater Dei standout Harrison Hornery, who averages nearly 18 points a game, is headed to USC. His love of basketball began in his native Australia.

“Jayda definitely has the patience,” Jones said. “She has the patience for everybody; she’s always making sure everybody comes together at the end of the day.”

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The three have taken to heart and galvanized a modern style of small-ball that emphasizes pace, defensive rotations and efficiency in transition. It took time, though, for them to embrace that identity.

As Jones tried to stay ready by dribbling a basketball in the kitchen and San Antonio ventured to local parks to hone her shot on less-forgiving double rims, Centennial’s season was delayed because of the pandemic, which threw a wrench into Woods’ plans. Six-foot center Katherine Davis, who paced the team in rebounding and blocks the previous season, chose to focus on track rather than basketball.

To make matters worse, the program’s season started later than that of teams in other districts, and Centennial’s facilities weren’t open for use until a week before their first game against Garden Grove Orangewood Academy. That game, Woods and Curry said, was rough despite ending in a 58-45 victory.

Their chemistry wasn’t there.An overwhelming assortment of talent, from the three captains to sophomore point guard Sydni Summers to junior bench players Bella Law and N’Dya Parks — both of whom Woods feels would be starting for other programs — soon clicked. Summers leads the team in assists with 7.9 per game and is second in rebounding at 6.3.

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“It was just a realization that we have so many threats on the court at once, one through five,” said Curry, who is shooting 52% from the field.

“If we move the ball, there’s really not that many people that can stop us.”

Corona Centennial girls' basketball players gather with coach Martin Woods for a meeting.
Corona Centennial girls’ basketball players gather with coach for a meeting.
(Luca Evans / For The Times)

Defense truly becomes offense for Centennial. While a lack of post players might mean they’ll cede a few points in the paint, it also allows them to take advantage of slower-footed opponents in transition. Pressing to force turnovers, double-teaming and boxing out has become key to generating those opportunities, Curry said.

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Everyone buys in. The team’s leading rebounder is 5-foot-7 junior Layla Curry. And as Woods said, that team mentality trickles down from its captains — whom average around four steals per game.

“I don’t want to say I didn’t play defense, but it wasn’t the first thing that came with my game,” Jayda Curry said of previous seasons. “But I think this year with this team, and especially with [Jones and San Antonio] and me learning from them — seeing how aggressive they are on defense — it’s gotten me to play a lot harder defense.”

As the team follows their captains, the three follow each other, in multiple contexts. Three weeks ago, Jones recalled being tired during a practice and unconsciously pulling up her shorts and socks to heights that would make 1950s basketball players proud. As a joke, San Antonio and Curry followed suit. It remains one of Jones’ and San Antonio’s favorite memories of the season.

“We looked like grandmas,” San Antonio said, giggling.

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They certainly don’t play like grandmas. Their pedal-to-the-metal mentality — and shared belief that no team works as hard as them — has the three captains confident heading into a playoff run that’ll begin Saturday against West Torrance.

“It’s my last go-around,” San Antonio said with a grin. “Go big or go home, baby.”


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