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SUNSET REGION: First-half defense leads Palo Verde girls past Desert Oasis

Coach Phil Clarke thought for a while when asked if he’d seen Palo Verde’s girls basketball team play a better half of defense than it displayed Wednesday.

Finally, he gave up; there probably wasn’t much need to think in the first place.

The Panthers played remarkable defense for the first 16 minutes, holding visiting Desert Oasis to 2-for-19 shooting with 13 turnovers and a mere six points in the first half, to cruise to a 38-21 win over the Diamondbacks in a Sunset Region quarterfinal.

Palo Verde (21-7) will face Bishop Gorman at 6:20 p.m. Thursday at Desert Oasis in a region semifinal.

“Our focus was on their main three guards, and to hold that team to just six points in the first half …”

Clarke began. He didn’t finish the statement. There was no need.

The Panthers, whose tallest starter stands 5-feet-8-inches tall, swarmed Desert Oasis from the start and took a 22-6 halftime lead.

The Diamondbacks (17-8) started four guards, switched to an all-guard lineup in less than two minutes, but still couldn’t handle Palo Verde’s full-court trap.

Even when Desert Oasis got a chance to shoot, the shots were challenged. Two were blocked and a handful were slightly off-balance. Still more were of the circus variety.

“We like to make things hectic, use our quickness,” Clarke said. “When we jumped the ball or doubled the ball, we just made sure we rotated to the backside. We don’t have that big shot blocker to be an eraser. Our quickness has to be our eraser.”

The Diamondbacks entered the game averaging slightly more than 51 points per game. Only twice all season had they failed to get to 40 in a game — both against Gorman — and had never been held to fewer than 31.

But Palo Verde’s defense, combined with the nerves the Diamondbacks of competing in the first playoff game in the program’s history, never let Desert Oasis get going.

Leading scorer Tatiana Kearn, who came in averaging more than 14 ppg, took only four shots — and didn’t score.

“We did a great job on her,” Clarke said. “We just made sure we knew where she was. Every guard took their turn with her and never let her get going.”

Desert Oasis finished the game with more turnovers (24) than points, and made just 8 of 37 field goals.

However, Palo Verde’s offense wasn’t over-sharpened, but the Panthers did just enough to never let the Diamondbacks get close.

Jasmin Kiley led the Panthers with 10 points, and Lily Tapusoa and Alyssa Amoruso added eight points apiece.

Nicole Ameli and Dominique Bryant each grabbed nine rebounds for Palo Verde.

Sammi Tso paced Desert Oasis with 11 points.

Sierra Vista 51, Legacy 46 — At Sierra Vista, Jeanette Jackson had 24 points to lead the Mountain Lions past the Longhorns.

Jasmine Suarez added 18 points for Sierra Vista, which led 16-10 after one quarter.

The Mountain Lions (21-6) face Centennial in a semifinal at 3 p.m. Thursday at Desert Oasis.

Makayla Hicks had 16 points for Legacy (21-7), and teammates Shakita Cox and Latia Matthews each added 10 points.

Bishop Gorman 88, Mojave 49 — At Gorman, Zhane Dikes had 20 points and 10 rebounds as the Gaels (22-5) rolled past the Rattlers (12-15).

Dikes had 16 points in the first half as Gorman stormed to a 54-22 lead.

April Rivers added 18 points for Gorman. Julia Ewalefo (12), Amber Lane (11) and Diamond Major (10) also scored in double figures for the Gaels.

Jazzmine Robinson led Mojave with 25 points.

Centennial 73, Durango 33 — At Centennial, Ashley Klemz had 17 points, and the Bulldogs (28-1) jumped out to a 45-14 halftime lead en route to the easy win.

Courtney Hayes added 14 points, and Denajha Kie scored 13 for Centennial.

Amanda Boucher led the Trailblazers (14-14) with nine points.

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