LV HOLIDAY CLASSIC: Samantha Thomas helps Bulldogs rout Reno in title game

Samantha Thomas doesn’t know much about the rivalry between Centennial and Reno’s girls basketball teams.

On Wednesday, the Huskies found out far more than they wanted to about the Centennial junior.

Thomas, a junior who transferred from Marian High in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., with her sister Bailey prior to this season, scored 31 points as the host Bulldogs routed Reno, 91-56 in the title game of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic. Centennial (14-1) and ranked No. 2 nationally by USA Today handed the Huskies (14-1) their first loss of the year.

“All I know is that they’re from the north and we’re from Las Vegas, and I know that they have the Gatorade Player of the Year from last year,” Thomas said. “I just wanted it for my team. When it’s a rivalry for Centennial, it’s a rivalry for yourself.”

Thomas scored 17 of her 31 points in the final nine minutes of the first half. She had 21 points in the first half as the Bulldogs took a 45-33 halftime lead.

She started the second half with a 3-pointer and added another during a 15-0 run that increased the lead to 60-33 with 4:32 to play in the third quarter.

“Sam can do that every game,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “She has one of the most amazing shots, probably the prettiest shot I’ve seen in all my years of coaching as far as fundamentals and mechanics. She’s a very hard guard to guard. We can put her inside or outside. She can play one through five at any level, even the next level.”

Bailey Thomas already has committed to West Virginia, and Samantha Thomas probably also will commit to a Division I college.

The two have fit in almost seamlessly with a squad that won the Division I state title last year and graduated only one senior.

“We’re always around each other at school, and we became a family really fast,” Samantha Thomas said. “That just made the basketball easier.”

Freshman Melanie Isbell scored 13 of her 19 points in the second half for Centennial, which split its varsity squad into two teams for the tournament and went 5-0 with only seven players.

“Mel has only gotten better,” Weitz said. “The biggest thing with her and Bailey and Sam coming in and learning the system is they have just been students of the game. When you do that, good things happen.”

Jayden Eggleston had 13 points, and Justice Ethridge scored 12 for Centennial.

Two-time state player of the year Mallory McGwire had 24 points, including a 10-for-10 effort from the free-throw line, and 10 rebounds for Reno.

Kaitlynn Biassou added 13 points for the Huskies, who are expected to contend for the Northern Region title this year and won state crowns in 2013 and 2014.

“It’s a North and a South team, and people like to call it rivalry,” Weitz said. “But any time they match up, you expect them to bring their ‘A’ game.”

Centennial 68, West Torrance (Calif.) 37 — Samantha Thomas scored 11 of her 21 points in the first half, and the Bulldogs built a 38-24 halftime lead en route to a win over the Warriors in a semifinal.

Eggleston added 17 points, and Ethridge scored 15 for Centennial.

Kalei Atkinson paced West Torrance with 14 points.

Palo Verde 66, Valley 35 — Brooklyn Cruz poured in 28 points to lead the Panthers by the Vikings in a consolation game.

Paulina Silcox added 11 points for Palo Verde, which led 43-14 at the half.

Almond Slayton led Valley with 11 points.

Desert Pines 36, Bonita (Calif.) 32 — Jordan Bailey scored six of her 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars rallied by the Bearcats in a consolation game.

Chrystian Myles added seven points for Desert Pines, which trailed 24-21 entering the fourth quarter.

Taylor Riggs had 14 points for Bonita.

Centennial JV 50, Las Vegas 24 — Eboni Walker had 16 points as the Bulldogs’ second unit routed the Wildcats in a consolation game.

Tylise Taylor added nine points for the Bulldogs, who led 12-2 after one quarter.

Dyonne Peterson had six points for Las Vegas.

Lakeside (Calif.) 68, Desert Oasis 64 — Marissa Williams scored 15 points to help the Lancers hold off the Diamondbacks in a consolation game.

Emma Merriweather added 12 points for Lakeside, which led 61-41 after three quarters.

Ashlynn Sharp had 21 points, and Taryn Lampkin scored 13 for Desert Oasis.

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