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Centennial plays No. 2-ranked team in girls national tournament

Big games are not new to Centennial’s girls basketball team.

National semifinals, though, are a different story.

The Bulldogs will make history Friday when they become the first Nevada girls basketball team to play in the GEICO Nationals in New York City.

Centennial (31-1) will face St. John’s (D.C.) in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Friday in New York City. The game will be televised on ESPNU. Centennial is ranked fourth nationally by USA Today and St. John’s (35-1) second.

No. 1 Miami Country Day meets No. 8 New Hope Academy (Maryland) in the other semifinal. The championship is at 7 a.m. Saturday.

“It’s a year of firsts,” Centennial senior Eboni Walker said. “We already got our first five time in a row state championship, and now to be the first-ever Centennial team or Nevada girls team to go to nationals, I’m excited.”

The Bulldogs received the invitation to the tournament after winning their fifth straight Class 4A state championship in March.

Centennial is 12-1 against out-of-state competition, with the loss coming to Salesian College Prep (California) in the Nike Tournament of Champions. The Bulldogs then beat Sanford (Delaware), Benson Tech (Oregon) and Grandview (Colorado) at the Nike tourney.

“I’m really confident in our team and what we do,” Centennial senior Melanie Isbell said. “We really focus on ourselves and making sure we’re at our best at all times. We just need to be that much tighter, that much more focused.”

The Bulldogs faced St. John’s last season, dropping a 72-43 decision at the Nike tourney, and the Cadets might be even better this season.

“I’m excited to play them first,” Walker said. “They’re supposed to be one of the best.”

Sophomore wing Azzi Fudd is St. John’s leading scorer (26.3 points per game) and the national Gatorade Player of the Year.

“Fudd is special,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “She is someone to be reckoned with.”

Cadets senior Malu Tshitenge-Mutombo, a 6-foot-3-inch post player, is the niece of former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo and has committed to North Carolina.

“If we do what we practice and do every day and be ourselves, we’ll be fine,” Weitz said. “We’ve dealt with a lot of top players. We definitely think we have some defenses that can match up against top players.”

More preps: Follow at nevadapreps.com and @NevadaPreps on Twitter.

Contact reporter Bartt Davis at bdavis@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.

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