The chase begins: Which basketball team can topple Centennial?

The chase begins: Which basketball team can topple Centennial?

There’s little doubt which boys’ basketball team has everyone’s respect when the season begins next week. It’s No. 1 Corona Centennial, the two-time defending Southern Section Open Division champion.

“They set the bar,” Studio City Harvard-Westlake coach David Rebibo said. “We know the road goes through Corona Centennial.”

Added Chatsworth Sierra Canyon coach Andre Chevalier: “Corona Centennial just kicked our butts [last season]. Everybody needs an antagonist, and we definitely have one.”

So which team is best positioned to find a way to take down the Huskies, led by Duke-bound Jared McCain and UCLA-bound Devin Williams?

Harvard-Westlake is that team. The Wolverines lost to the Huskies in the final last season and have had success against them in recent years. They return Notre Dame-bound Brady Dunlap, talented 6-foot-8 center Jacob Huggins and rising 6-8 sophomore Nikolas Khamenia. But the key to overtaking Centennial is the improvement of junior guards Trent Perry and Robert Hinton. They’ve gotten bigger, stronger and wiser.

Perry, a 6-4 point guard, must shoulder increased responsibilities.

“I’ve gained 15 pounds over the summer,” Perry said. “I’ve been in the weight room at least four times a week. I’ve matured a lot. This year is going to be finding everybody on the court, finding shooters, finding the big men.”

Let’s review the preseason top 25 teams:

1. CORONA CENTENNIAL: Coach Josh Giles adds point guard Mike Price, a transfer from Sierra Canyon, to a veteran group that is used to winning in big games. McCain enters the season ranked as the No. 1 player in California.

2. STUDIO CITY HARVARD-WESTLAKE: The Wolverines have size, shooters, chemistry, depth and the hunger to finish on top.

3. CHATSWORTH SIERRA CANYON: It’s Bronny James’ senior year. If he stays injury free, it should be his best. The big questions are how long it will take for the Trailblazers’ annual group of transfers to mesh and will they agree to put team over individual accomplishments?

Dusty Stromer of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is back for his senior season.

Dusty Stromer of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame is back for his senior season.

(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

4. SHERMAN OAKS NOTRE DAME: With the guard trio of Dusty Stromer (Gonzaga commit), Caleb Foster (Duke) and Mercy Miller (Houston), the Knights have firepower. Much will depend on whether 6-7 Jayden Harper can provide consistent rebounding.

5. SANTA ANA MATER DEI: The Monarchs might have the best group of freshmen anywhere, led by 6-6 Che Brogan, the son of former Monarch great Tom Lewis. By the end of the season, Mater Dei will be very dangerous.

6. TORRANCE BISHOP MONTGOMERY: Veteran coach Doug Mitchell has plenty of talent to work with, which means opponents are in trouble. Will Smith is a 6-4 senior who plays his heart out.

7. SANTA CLARITA WEST RANCH: As far as talent goes, this team is right there with the best. But can West Ranch players get along on and off the court? Transfer Jazz Gardner joins top returnees James Evans, Andrew Meadow and Jaqari Miles.

8. TEMECULA RANCHO CHRISTIAN: 6-11 Martin Gumwel is committed to Pepperdine, 6-6 point guard Rodney Brown should be headed to the Pac-12, and Colony transfer Kollen Murphy helps a bunch.

9. RIVERSIDE POLY: The Bears were a big surprise last season and are ready to unleash 6-5 sophomore Brayden Burries.

10. BELLFLOWER ST. JOHN BOSCO: It’s the sophomore year for talented point guard Elzie Harrington and 6-7 forward Kade Bonam. Add top three-point shooter Jack Turner and 6-9 transfer Xinyl Li and you have a team capable of winning the Trinity League.

11. MORENO VALLEY RANCHO VERDE: 6-10 Jacob McFarland was one of the summer’s rising stars, giving the Mustangs a true standout to build around.

12. PLAYA DEL REY ST. BERNARD: Guard Tyler Rolison returns, but the most intriguing newcomer is Tahj Ariza, son of former Westchester High and NBA player Trevor Ariza.

13. ETIWANDA: Yes, the Eagles can play defense. Returnees Curtis Williams and Jimmy Baker will try to add needed offensive firepower.

14. SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO JSERRA: Sebastian Rancik, a 6-9 junior, has the chance to be the best player in the Trinity League.

15. NORTH HILLS HERITAGE CHRISTIAN: Young and talented, Heritage Christian has added guard Giovanni Goree from Calabasas Viewpoint and two freshmen, 6-2 guard DeLan Grant and 7-2 Howie Wu. Tae Simmons, a 6-7 sophomore, has a 41-inch vertical leap.

Brothers Marcus (left) and Maximo Adams figure to be top players for Narbonne this season.

Brothers Marcus (left) and Maximo Adams figure to be top players for Narbonne this season. Marcus is a junior, Maximo a freshman.

(Marcellus Fletcher)

16. HARBOR CITY NARBONNE: Coach Anthony Hilliard has been on medical leave, but assistant Kumase DeMesma has done well in the offseason, aided by the addition of the Adams brothers, 6-8 Marcus and 6-6 Maximo.

17. SANTA MARGARITA: The Eagles have size, led by 6-8 Rockwell Reynolds. Freshman Brayden Kyman, the brother of former UCLA guard Jake Kyman, can make an immediate impact.

18. ANAHEIM CANYON: With five starters back, the Comanches are your favorite neighborhood team. Sophomore Brandon Benjamin is tough to stop when he gets the ball inside.

19. STUDIO CITY CAMPBELL HALL: Junior guard Aaron Powell is the real deal. He can make three-pointers or drive to the basket. Not since the days of the Holiday brothers have the Vikings been favored to win the Gold Coast League.

20. LA CANADA ST. FRANCIS. Senior point guard Jackson Mosley has gone against the best in the Mission League for three years and figures to be able to handle himself against elite competition.

21. LONG BEACH POLY: The Jackrabbits are building around 6-5 sophomore Jovani Ruff.

22. ONTARIO COLONY: 6-6 Denzel Hines leads a team that’s always competitive and well-coached.

23. SUN VALLEY VILLAGE CHRISTIAN: The Crusaders will rely on reigning Division 2-AA player of the year Immanuel Taylor, a standout point guard.

24. SANTA MONICA CROSSROADS: Nils Cooper, Solo Bailey, Isaiah Chappell, Zion Watt and Coco Britt offer experience and toughness.

25. OAK PARK. 6-7 senior Isaiah Sherrard is a standout big man for a program that’s always good.

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