SUNSET BOYS: Brown’s big night pushes Centennial into final vs. Gorman

There was nothing wrong with the way Centennial’s Troy Brown played in the first half on Thursday.

But the junior guard made a true statement in the third quarter. Brown scored 14 of his game-high 30 points in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs pulled away for a 65-48 win over Durango in the Division I Sunset Region semifinals.

Centennial (24-3) plays Bishop Gorman (22-7) in the title game at 7 p.m. Friday at Arbor View.

“He’s got a different look in his eye right now,” Centennial coach Todd Allen said of Brown. “Hopefully we can do it for one more day.”

Brown had 14 points to help the Bulldogs to a 29-24 halftime lead, but the 6-foot-6-inch junior took over in the third quarter.

After a teardrop shot by Centennial’s Roy Sparks, Brown scored the next seven points to push the lead to 38-24 with 4:45 to go in the third quarter. Brown was 5-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line in the quarter. He finished with 16 rebounds, four blocked shots and two steals.

Sparks hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to give Centennial its biggest lead, 59-37, with 3:00 to go. Durango forced a pair of turnovers after that and got consecutive 3-pointers from Chase Ruiz to start a run. The Trailblazers got as close as 59-48 on a 3-pointer by Jason Landman with 1:34 to play, but went cold after that and Centennial held on.

Allen praised Isaiah Banks’ defense on Ruiz. Durango’s leading scorer missed his first six shots, and missed all four of his 3-point attempts in the first half. He finished with 12 points.

“Obviously we needed to control Ruiz, and Isaiah Banks did a great job on him,” Allen said. “I think he only had four points at half. Isaiah did a really good job to keep him at bay.”

The Bulldogs also dominated on the glass. They held a 25-12 rebound advantage in the first half, and outrebounded Durango 45-27 for the game.

“That’s the key for us,” Allen said. “We’ve got guys that can go get the ball, especially Troy. We told them that they were going to be shooting a lot of 3s, so we’ve got to track down the boards, and if we can win the rebound battle and contain them a little bit, we’ve got a real good shot.”

Zyare Ruffin had 11 points and seven rebounds, and Landman had 10 points, six rebounds and five blocked shots for Durango (17-7).

Jake Hutchings added 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Sparks scored 10 for Centennial, which will try to end Gorman’s streak of seven Sunset Region titles.

“We’ve just got to do what we do,” Allen said. “It’s a short time to prepare for it. The kids are excited. We’ve just got to come out and give it our best and see if we can there in the fourth quarter.”

Bishop Gorman 75, Desert Oasis 54 — Having your McDonald’s All American in foul trouble is never a good thing.

But for Gorman, playing without 7-foot center Zach Collins came with a hidden benefit. The Gaels were able to turn up the defensive pressure with a smaller lineup on the floor, and held Desert Oasis to eight third-quarter points on the way to a win in the other semifinal.

“We didn’t do anything fancy, just straight man-to-man, fullcourt and just got after it,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “When Zach Collins got in foul trouble and then we had a smaller group in there, we were able to kind of pressure them fullcourt a little bit and extend the lead.”

Gorman (22-7) led 31-27 at the half, and held a 36-30 lead when Collins picked up his fourth foul with 4:40 to go in the third quarter. After Desert Oasis (19-10) scored to cut the lead to four, the Gaels closed the third quarter on a 14-3 run to push the lead to 50-35.

Christian Popoola started the run with a rebound bucket, and Charles O’Bannon Jr. hit a 3-pointer to push the lead to 41-32 with 2:43 to go in the quarter.

O’Bannon had eight of his 21 points in the third quarter to help spark the Gaels.

“That’s Chuck,” Rice said. “We talked at halftime about getting to the basket. And several of the plays we called were trying to get Chuck to catch the ball on the run where he could get to the basket.”

Desert Oasis didn’t fold, cutting the lead to 52-43 on a 3-pointer by Drevin Cannon from the right wing with 6:05 to play. Collins fouled out 14 seconds later, and Aamondae Coleman made 1 of 2 free throws to cut the lead to eight.

“Desert Oasis didn’t quit,” Rice said. “They came back and cut it to nine, it might have been eight at one point. A team that shoots 3s as well as they do, that’s always a scary thing.”

But Gorman was able to seal the win at the foul line, making 13 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter. Popoola, who had 16 points and seven rebounds, was 8-for-8 from the line in the fourth quarter.

Byron Frohnen added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Gaels.

“Byron Frohnen did a great job on the ball,” Rice said. “We rotated Byron and Christian Popoola at the point. We put Pop on the wing so he could score a little bit more and try to get to the free-throw line. We did that in the second half, and that seemed to work a little bit.”

Desert Oasis came out with more intensity early, and the Diamondbacks were step-for-step with the Gaels through most of the first half.

“They were just making plays,” Rice said. “Desert Oasis was fired up from the start. They were boxing out, they were pushing and clawing and doing everything they could. Hat’s off to them. They did a great job.”

Desert Oasis led 25-23 after a free throw by Andrue Aguilera with 1:16 to go in the second quarter. But a three-point play by Frohnen gave Gorman the lead with 1:00 left in the half, and the Gaels wouldn’t trail again.

Cannon had 19 points and six rebounds, and Coleman had 15 points and eight boards for Desert Oasis.

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