Mallory McGwire’s first state basketball tournament started off with a whimper.
But Reno’s 6-foot-4-inch freshman post didn’t stay quiet for long.
McGwire missed her first six shots from the field Thursday, most of them from within arm’s reach of the basket, before catching fire and hitting 7 of 8 shots to help the Huskies stun Centennial 53-44 in a Division I girls semifinal at Orleans Arena.
Reno (26-3) will meet Bishop Gorman (21-9) for the tile at 6 p.m. Friday.
“If you ask Mallory, she wouldn’t know she missed six shots in a row,” Reno coach Shane Foster said. “When she gets it, she’s going to attack the basket. If she missed 20 in a row, she would keep going.”
McGwire is at least 3 inches taller than any Bulldogs player, and her height paid huge dividends in the second half, when the Huskies began to dominate the post.
Her shining moment came midway through the fourth quarter. After Centennial whittled Reno’s 40-31 lead to 44-41, McGwire hit a jumper and two shots from in close to re-establish a nine-point cushion and send Reno to its second straight semifinal win over Centennial.
McGwire’s older sister, Morgan, a 6-1 junior, added eight points, and 6-foot junior guard Shalen Shaw scored 10 as the Huskies found the key to their liking.
“Gigi (Hascheff) did a real good job, as did (Shaw), getting the ball to Mallory, and then when we missed, Morgan was huge on the offensive rebounds,” Foster said.
Savannah Schulze hit three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points for Reno.
Centennial (26-5) had trouble finding offensive rhythm, especially in the second half. The Bulldogs made only two field goals in the fourth quarter, reminiscent of the 60-41 loss last season to Reno in the state semifinals when the Bulldogs failed to hit a field goal in the final 7:15.
“It was like deja vu from last year,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “The start was poor again. The effort lapses were evident again. We had spurts where we did some good things. Defensively, everything we talked about in practice all week, with what we wanted to do with their bigs, wasn’t done.”
Breanna Workman had 13 points for Centennial. Paige Barber added nine points — all on first-half 3-pointers — for the Bulldogs, who were 54-49 winners over Reno when the teams met at Centennial on Dec. 29.
“Our girls believe in themselves, and they know they can play,” Foster said. “Everybody thinks (Centennial) is the favorite. They’re a damn good team, and we feel fortunate to get a win.”