In February, the Centennial High School girls basketball team capped its sensational regular season with a dominant postseason run and its fourth consecutive state championship.
Turns out the summer wasn’t too different.
The Vegas Bulldogs, the AAU name for the Centennial-affiliated basketball team, wrapped up their summer season on Sunday with a championship in national Summer Basketball Playoff in Suwanee, Georgia, proving once again that Centennial runs one of the top girls basketball programs in the nation.
The Bulldogs, unlike most mens AAU teams, are composed entirely of players that attend Centennial, or eighth graders who are zoned for the area. The team practices year-round, with a month off after the high school season and a few weeks off after the summer season before the start of school.
“It speaks volumes as to why we’re successful during the high school season,” coach Karen Weitz said. “It allows kids who have maybe been on JV or had a limited role during the high school season to really get a lot of court time and playing time.”
Melanie Isbell will be a senior next season and next summer she won’t be playing for the Bulldogs, but prepping to begin her college career at UNLV. So this time around, she was looked on as a leader to the younger players, and took on a role she has not needed to before.
“Throughout the years there’s always been a top dog,” Isbell said. “Now that it’s me, at first I felt pressure, a little nervous, like I know these younger girls are looking up to me so what can I do to help them, while still improving myself.
“I think I’ve gotten it down, and I think that they do look to me and it’s awesome actually.”
Isbell will lead a talented group looking for a fifth title come wintertime. Eboni Walker was an All-State high school player, Quince Hatcher has had a strong summer and Ajanhai Phoumiphat was a starter last year.
And those are just the seniors. The Bulldogs, who finished the season ranked No. 8 in the country in the final 2017-18 USA Today national girls basketball poll, have a lot more coming through the pipeline.
“It’s a sisterhood. We fight like sisters and say ‘I hate you, I hate you,’ but at the end of the day it’s all good, we’re family,” Isbell said. “The chemistry we build, the memories we have … they’re relationships you’ll have for a lifetime. It’s a blessing actually.”