Monday, Dec. 29, 2008 | 10:26 p.m.
No one enjoys a 15-point loss.
But if it comes during the semifinals of a 32-team winter break tournament to a skilled out-of-state opponent, then the experience gained is more important than the final score.
That's how the Centennial boys basketball team looked at its 65-50 defeat at the hands of Serra High of Gardena, Calif., Monday at Las Vegas High. The defeat puts Centennial into the third place game of the Las Vegas Prep Championship tournament against either Palo Verde or Western Tuesday night.
"We look at all these games as preparation for our league play, and we felt like we played some real quality teams in this tournament that will help us out," Centennial coach Greg Bohls said. "Of course, you'd like to win, but I feel we learned a lot with today's loss also."
Drew Staker led Centennial with 11 points against Serra while Matt Holley chipped in 10.
Centennial shot out to an early 11-7 lead, but Serra exploded midway through the first half to go on a 18-3 run, taking 25-14 advantage it would never relinquish.
Centennial was able to cut its deficit to 41-36 with 10 minutes remaining but Serra went on another 18-6 run to put the game out of reach.
"They went to trapping us a little bit at half court and we didn't handle it well," Bohls said. "We didn't move the ball well, and we had our head down dribbling too much. We got away from the fundamental things we do in practice."
Despite the loss, Centennial (6-7) doubled its win total for the season during the tournament. The Bulldogs defeated Banning High of Wilmington, Calif., 77-53 on Friday and went on to win a pair of thrillers against Sierra Vista, 51-49, and Desert Pines, 79-78, on Saturday. Point guard Anil Kundanani hit a floating shot in the lane as time expired to beat Desert Pines.
Holley said the tournament has been valuable experience for Centennial. "We were down and had to fight back both times against Desert Pines and Sierra Vista," Holley said. "They are both athletic teams, and this Serra team was especially athletic. So (the tournament) is definitely helping us out."
Centennial guard Ben Vozzola, who has garnered attention from schools like Washington State, Santa Clara and Utah in the past few months, said he was happy with Centennial's play throughout the tournament.
"It's a great experience because it gets our team better chemistry and we bond together," Vozzola said. "I think we've improved a lot."
Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].