RENO — For a little more than three quarters Thursday, Centennial’s girls basketball team was playing the part of David to Reno’s Goliath to perfection.
The Bulldogs, facing a huge mismatch in size, led the Huskies by five points and had all but neutralized Reno’s post players.
Centennial, though, ran out of artillery, and a last-second, potential game-tying shot teased the Bulldogs before falling away.
Reno finally found its inside game late and held off Centennial 55-52 in a Division I state semifinal at UNR’s Lawlor Events Center. The defending state champion Huskies (29-1) will face Liberty (26-4) in the final at 6:10 p.m. Friday.
The Bulldogs’ tallest player is listed at 5 feet, 9 inches. The Huskies start 6-foot-4-inch post Mallory McGwire, 6-1 post Morgan McGwire and 6-1 guard/forward Shalen Shaw.
“When you’ve got girls who are 5-7, 5-8 trying to defend girls who are 6-3, 6-4, you’re going to give up a few points, which is all we gave up,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “I thought our post defense was great.”
Yet Centennial ran, jumped, poked and dived its way to a 46-41 lead with 5 minutes, 23 seconds left. To that point, Centennial twins and reserve posts Ivana and Ioana Ganeva had outscored the Huskies’ McGwire sisters.
But Reno finally opened up the inside, and each McGwire scored four points during a 10-0 run that put Reno ahead to stay.
Centennial rallied to tie the game at 51-51 before Daranda Hinkey hit two free throws with 1:35 to go to put Reno up, 53-51.
Simone Barber split a pair of free throws with 54.1 seconds left to trim the lead to one, and Hinkey, who went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, hit two more with 13.8 seconds left.
Centennial’s Paige Barber launched a 3-pointer from the left corner just before the final buzzer. The shot hit the back and front of the rim before ricocheting away.
“We came up here to win,” Weitz said. “And they fought their hearts out. I always say when you come up to Reno, you’ve got to be 10 points better than the other team.”
Tramina Jordan led Centennial with 16 points. Ivana Ganeva and Teirra Hicks each added eight points for Centennial, which was outrebounded 47-15, but forced 32 turnovers by Reno.
Morgan McGwire had 12 points and 14 rebounds, and Mallory McGwire had 10 points and 14 rebounds for Reno, which also got 11 points from Alyson Rippingham.