SUNSET GIRLS BASKETBALL: Centennial dials long distance on Bishop Gorman

The rivalry between the Centennial and Bishop Gorman girls basketball teams has produced some of the most memorable postseason games of the past 15 years.

Friday’s result probably won’t make the list of instant classics.

Melanie Isbell made six of Centennial’s 10 3-pointers and finished with 20 points, and the Bulldogs outclassed Gorman 82-44 in the Class 4A Sunset Region semifinals at Shadow Ridge.

Eboni Walker had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and Justice Ethridge scored 17 for the Bulldogs (28-2), who are ranked No. 4 in the USA Today Super 25 poll.

Centennial, the six-time defending region champion, faces Spring Valley, a 66-61 winner over Desert Oasis, in the final at 4 p.m. Saturday at Shadow Ridge.

“We wanted to start the playoffs strong, set the tone and show other teams what’s coming,” Isbell said. “We know nothing changes day in and day out.”

Centennial and Gorman had met in the region final the past 14 seasons, with the Bulldogs winning nine. This time, the Gaels got in early foul trouble and couldn’t recover.

Gorman (21-7) made only 14 of its 45 field-goal attempts and was outrebounded 48-25.

“I really wanted us to just do what we do well,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “Offensively, I think we’re pretty strong this season for high school girls basketball, so we’ve really honed in on our defense, and that’s something we’ve prided ourselves in.”

Skylar Jackson led Gorman with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and teammate Shaira Young scored 11.

Jackson had one of the Gaels’ few highlights when she inbounded the ball off the back of a Centennial defender and dribbled the length of the floor before making a pull-up jumper with 2:30 left in the second quarter.

But Centennial, which opened the game on a 12-0 run, led 55-24 at halftime after Isbell’s 3-pointer at the buzzer. Centennial led by as many as 42 in the second half, and the game was played with a running clock for the final 10:42.

“That’s the plan, to start doing what we do from the tip,” Isbell said. “That’s the tone-setter for the whole game. We know good starts lead to good things down the line.”

Samantha Thomas, an Arizona recruit, added 14 points, nine rebounds and three steals for Centennial.

“Our top kids, I think they are as good as they are because they go against good competition in practice,” Weitz said. “Our bench is so tough. I think that’s put us in the position we’re in because a lot of them would start at most high schools in the city.”

Spring Valley 66, Desert Oasis 61 — At Shadow Ridge, Essence Booker had 17 of her game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter, and the Grizzlies rallied to defeat the Diamondbacks in the other semifinal.

Spring Valley, which reached the Division I-A (now Class 3A) state title game each of the past two seasons, outscored Desert Oasis 23-11 in the fourth quarter. Booker and Kayla Harris combined to go 10-for-10 from the free-throw line in the final 1:05 for the Grizzlies (18-11).

“The experience, flat-out,” Spring Valley coach Billy Hemberger said. “We’ve been in every big game. I put them in such a difficult schedule, this was just another big game. They kept their composure and kept fighting and kept fighting. I’ve just got a group of warriors, man. That’s what it boils down to.”

Ashlynn Sharp led Desert Oasis (20-6) with 17 points, and Eliyjah Pricebrooks had 11 points.

The Diamondbacks overcame a slow start to go up 35-22 at halftime and led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter. Ahmaya Smith drained a 30-footer at the third-quarter buzzer to put Desert Oasis up 50-43, but the top seed from the Southwest League couldn’t hold on.

Sharp’s layup after Sierra Mich’l blocked a shot put Desert Oasis ahead 57-54 with 1:25 remaining before Booker scored eight straight points to give the Grizzlies a 62-57 lead with 28.1 seconds left.

Spring Valley avenged two losses to the Diamondbacks during league play.

“That was a total team effort,” Hemberger said. “We don’t look at the fact we lost two games to them. They’re a very, very good team. But I didn’t feel like we shouldn’t be in this position. I’m excited.”

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