Fatigue should have been the worst enemy of Centennial’s girls basketball team in the championship game of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic on Thursday.
The host Bulldogs, whose fast-paced, in-your-face style of play is physically taxing, appeared gassed after having to rally to defeat hard-nosed Fairfax (Calif.) in a semifinal earlier in the day.
But Centennial (13-1) was anything but tired in the final, sprinting to a 13-5 lead over Highland (Ariz.) midway through the first quarter and never letting up en route to a 65-47 victory.
“I think this is the best game we have played all season,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “They finally played the way I know they can. We were good pretty much the whole game.”
Centennial battled back from a five-point deficit with one minute, 40 seconds to go against Fairfax in a game that sometimes resembled roller derby and should have worn out the Bulldogs, who had just watched Highland win its semifinal.
Instead, Centennial looked like a team on a mission, showing a more balanced offensive attack than it had in its previous five games in the tournament and holding prolific Highland post Kaile Magazzeni to six points.
Magazzeni, who averages more than 15 points per game, scored four points after Centennial had stretched its lead to more than 20 points.
Hounded by Jada Brown in the low post, Magazzeni made only two field goals and fouled out with more than five minutes to play.
“Jada Brown is by far one of the best defenders when she wants to be,” Weitz said. “She can defend a guard. She can defend a post. She’s quick for a big girl, and we were going to put her on (Magazzeni) from the get-go. Jada doesn’t have to do anything special. She just plays good defense.”
Tournament Most Valuable Player Ashley Klemz, who played a large role in the Bulldogs’ semifinal comeback, had 10 of her 12 points in the first half to help Centennial build a 34-20 lead, which was stretched to as much as 24 points in the second half.
Brown had 18 points, and Breanna Workman scored 15 for Centennial.
Alyssa Heeman led Highland with 13 points.
Centennial 57, Fairfax (Calif.) 56 — Klemz scored eight points in the final 1:40 of the game as the Bulldogs rallied from a 53-48 deficit to advance to the title game.
Klemz drained a pair of 3-pointers, the second to tie the game at 54 with 47.6 seconds to play.
“That’s where you’re happy to have a senior that you’ve coached for four years in that position,” said Weitz, who had used her final timeout midway through the fourth quarter. “Ashley knows what we’re looking for.”
Shannon Brown added a free throw with 31.5 seconds left, and Klemz made both ends of a one-and-one with 16 seconds to go to give Centennial a 57-56 lead.
John’ea Thompson’s basket with four seconds left cut the lead to one, but the Lions couldn’t stop the clock.
Tamera Williams added 12 points for Centennial, which had chances to extend a 25-16 second-quarter lead and potentially put the game away, but missed on three consecutive trips in transition.
Thompson led the Lions with 25 points.
Mojave 63, Douglas 45 — Jazzmine Robinson scored 22 points as the Rattlers collected their first win of the season.
Jazmine Pedraza added 21 points, and Alexandria Thiel scored 11 for Mojave, which outscored the Tigers 19-8 in the fourth quarter to pull away.
Valley 43, Schurr (Calif.) 36 — The Vikings scored the game’s final six points — all in 24 seconds — to clinch a win over Schurr.
Estelle Wilson led a balanced attack with nine points for Valley.
Carson 38, Arbor View 24 — The Senators broke open a close game in the second half and downed the Aggies.
Jena Valenzuela scored nine points for Arbor View, which trailed only 14-13 at the half.
Galena 49, Coronado 30 — Emily Burns had 28 points, and the Grizzlies outscored the Cougars 29-11 in the second half.
Sarah Dexter led Coronado with 10 points.