Centennial senior guard Justin Greiner came out of a timeout with a little more than two minutes left in the game and told his teammates that he would get a bucket on the ensuing drive.

It was the opening round of the Ralph Krafve Memorial Tournament at East High on Wednesday, and the once 19-point lead the Golden Hawks held against Bakersfield Christian was down to nine.

Out of the timeout, Greiner took the ball off a screen and drove to the basket for the bucket as Centennial pulled away from BCHS, eventually winning 61-56.

“We needed a bucket,” Greiner said. “So I knew I had to be the man to do it. The team needed it.”

Greiner, who came into the game averaging more than 27 points per game for the Golden Hawks (8-2), hit three 3-pointers and scored a game-high 21. Centennial came into the tournament averaging 84 points per contest as head coach Hernan Santiago mass substitutes his lineup as quickly as his players hit shots.

And that seems to be just fine for his players.

“It’s the energy we needed to come out here on the court and get the win,” Greiner said. “We like to hype each other up no matter who is on the floor. We believe that whoever is on the court, we can go out and get the win.”

Santiago has had a lot of talent come through Centennial since he took over in 2013-14, with former BVarsity All-Area Player of the Year Malcolm Johnson and two-time first-team selection Alec Check.

Even with those two playing college basketball, Santiago seems pretty content with the group he has this season.

“I have one of the best jobs in America,” Santiago said. “I mean that sincerely … These kids here are a special group.”

Santiago was eager to talk about his players GPAs and SAT scores more so than how they scored on the court on Wednesday, including senior guard Will Alexander, who has a 4.5 GPA and an SAT score around 1,500. To boot, Alexander scored 15 points for Centennial.

“He’s in the top 5 percentile in the nation for his SAT score,” Santiago said. “The character of these kids is great. We don’t worry about them partying. Will they make mistakes (on the court)? Sure. But we have the best group of kids and they are fun.”

Both teams were without starting big men, as Colby Warkentin and Christian Portis were out with an illness and BCHS was without sophomore Ben Yurosek because of a flu-like symptoms.

“Today was tough because we are missing two starters,” Santiago said. “But our attitude has always been, ‘next man up.’”

A.J. Walton scored 12 of his team-high 16 points for BCHS (7-3) in the second half and freshman Seth Marantos scored 15, including two 3s in the final 30 seconds.

“It seems like every big game we have its some tough luck,” BCHS coach Kyle Shiloh said. “It’s a learning experiences. We are young. We should have a great rest of the season. We are looking forward to it. That’s just how you have to look at this.”

Santiago agrees about the future of the Eagles.

“BCHS is really good,” Santiago said. “They are young and are going to be one of the best teams in the Valley for a long time. They are going to be awesome. Kyle is doing a great job with them.”

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