Chanel Thorley of Highland High (Ariz.) was fairly quiet through the first 30 minutes of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic championship game at Centennial on Tuesday.
She made a big impression, however, in the game’s final moments.
Thorley hit two free throws with 1:13 remaining, then nailed an open 6-footer with seconds to go to lift the Hawks over Centennial, 57-55.
“This game had a championship feel,” said Highland coach Miner Webster, whose team was eliminated by the Bulldogs in the semifinals of last year’s tournament. “To win it was great, but even better is the experience we got against a championship-type team.”
Centennial (14-2) appeared to have things under control when Johnna Brown hit a free throw to put the Bulldogs ahead 53-50 with 2:53 remaining.
But the Hawks (16-1) battled back, tying it on Thorley’s free throws before calling a timeout with 10 seconds to go.
After the inbounds pass, Thorley unexpectedly found herself open in the lane with six seconds left.
“We wanted her to get the ball, but we couldn’t get it to her,” said Webster, whose team is the defending Arizona state champion. “She just stepped down and wound up wide open to make the shot.”
Even Thorley wasn’t certain why she was not covered on the play.
“I think they were double-teaming someone,” she said. “I just rolled and it was there.”
A final shot by Centennial’s Courtney Hayes was blocked at the buzzer.
The Highland victory ruined a strong comeback effort by Centennial, which trailed throughout most of the first half.
Brown, who finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and three steals, tied the score at 28 with a 7-foot jumper and a free throw with 2:49 remaining in the second quarter.
Neither team led by more than three points the rest of the way.
Bulldogs coach Karen Weitz, whose team committed 24 turnovers while going 12-for-27 from the free-throw line, said her team gained valuable experience despite the loss.
“The most important thing we get out of this is the realization that we must come together and play a full game as a team,” Weitz said.
Alexis Byrd helped Centennial with 18 points.
Morgan Wohltman scored 17 points to lead Highland, and Thorley finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
Centennial 84, Dobson (Ariz.) 48 — Four Bulldogs scored in double figures to help Centennial win its semifinal game.
Brown led the way with 24 points, and teammate Deanna Daniels had 20.
Highland 47, Green Valley 32 — Wohltman scored 12 points to lead the Hawks to a semifinal victory.
Jasmine Jarvis scored 15 points to lead Green Valley, which rallied after scoring just two points in the first quarter.
Mount Zion (N.C.) 38, Durango 34 — In consolation play, Lauren Morton scored 14 points to lead Mount Zion past the Trailblazers.
Mia Bell and Jasmine Suarez each scored 14 points to lead Durango, which fell short with a late rally.
Mojave 30, Wellington (Canada) 20 — Jazzmine Robinson scored 15 points to help the Rattlers get their first win of the tournament.
Jasmine Osteen added seven points for Mojave, which won despite scoring just one point in the first quarter.
Dimond (Alaska) 51, Silverado 50 — Symphony Bagsby nailed a 3-pointer at the final buzzer to lift Dimond over the Skyhawks.
Shea Collins scored 18 points to pace Silverado, which led 14-5 at the end of the first quarter.
Valley 32, Elko 30 — Vanessa Corona finished with three 3-pointers and 16 points to lift the Vikings to victory.
Christina Davis and Audrey Doyle each added five points for Valley.
Coronado 37, Carson 29 — Sarah Dexter scored 10 points to help the Cougars beat the Senators.
Lindsay Decker helped Coronado with eight points.
Spanish Springs 40, Pahrump Valley 30 — Kelly Hernandez scored 15 points to help the Cougars defeat the Trojans.
Alyson Kunzi and Kristi Daffer each had nine points to lead Pahrump.
Galena 49, Palo Verde 37 — Hayley Jensen and Emily Burns each scored 15 points to help the Grizzlies beat the Panthers.
Hayley Henderson scored 17 points for Palo Verde, which never recovered from a 19-4 first-quarter deficit.
University (Calif.) 53, Mojave 39 — Akemi Arzouman scored 19 points to lead the Trojans past the Rattlers.
Shanae Ireland scored 14 points to pace Mojave, which trailed 34-15 at halftime.