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Reed, Reno girls ready to represent North
by Dan Eckles
Feb 22, 2012 | 1193 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed girls basketball coach Sara Schopper (left) talks with players during the Raiders’ practice Wednesday. Reed plays in a state tournament semifinal today against Foothill.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed girls basketball coach Sara Schopper (left) talks with players during the Raiders’ practice Wednesday. Reed plays in a state tournament semifinal today against Foothill.
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When it comes to large-school girls basketball in the Silver State, there has been a changing of the guard over the past decade. It used to be when southern Nevada teams earned state tourney berths, they were dispatched with relative ease by Northern 4A foes.

That’s no longer the case. In fact, over the past decade, it’s been the Northern schools getting dispatched time again. From 1981 to 2001, a Northern school won every girls large-school championship. However, either Bishop Gorman or Centennial, both of Las Vegas, have captured every girls crown since.

There have been some near misses for North schools. In 2002, Douglas lost the state final in double overtime. In 2004 and 2005, Reno lost single-digit games in the final, but for the most part it’s been smooth sailing for the two southern Nevada powers.

Will that change this year? State Tournament play tips off today at the University of Nevada’s Lawlor Events Center with semifinal action. Here’s a preview look at the two girls state semifinal games.

Reed (21-2) vs. Foothill (20-5), Thursday, 6:20 p.m.

The state tourney stage is nothing new to Reed. The Raiders have earned a state tournament berth in seven of the last nine years. Reaching the state tournament is an expectation for the east Sparks school.

All five of the school’s starters have state tournament experience. That’s a far cry from its opponent, Sunrise Region champion Foothill. This week marks the Falcon’s first ever trip to state.

“We certainly haven’t been the perennial team from down South,” Foothill coach Mike Collins said. “Gorman and Centennial have taken care of that. But I’ve had the program for three years now and since I’ve taken over, every year we’ve been successful. These girls have grown up in that.

“While we’re not the perennial favorites, it’s something we’ve been working toward. The kids are excited and I’m sure a little nervous. The court is a little bigger. The air is a little thinner, but we just have to do what we do and have a good showing. If we win something, great.”

Conversely, don’t expect Reed to be too nervous. It’s the Raider third straight year to state. However, last year the Raiders were embarrassed by Centennial, 84-57, in their first game at state. They don’t want that to happen again and have taken steps to make sure it doesn’t.

A year ago, Reed went into the state tourney undefeated, having played a softer schedule that included only two games decided by single digits. That’s not been the case this winter. Reed’s Northern 4A schedule was tougher for one. Secondly, the Raiders played in the ultra-competitive West Coast Jamboree over the Christmas Break. That’s where they were saddled with both of their losses.

“I’m really glad we played the schedule we did,” Reed coach Sara Schopper said. “We played some close games in the Bay. We lost a couple, but not by a lot. We came from behind and grew together. Plus, the league was tougher. We’re making sure to not take anything for granted. We’ve seen a lot of pressure this year. We’ve got more experience and we’ll be more ready than we ever have been. We’ve got a shot at hanging a banner this year.”

The Raiders’ seventh-year coach said there’s not much fundamental work or even learning new schemes at her team’s practices over the past week. She said it’s all about better understanding game situations.

“We’re talking about if we’re down, how are we going to deny,” Schopper said. “If it’s a close game, how will we execute press-break and out-of-bounds plays. That’s our practice right now, game-type scenarios.”

It will be interesting to see how prepared the two teams are for one another. Collins admitted he knows relatively little about Reed.

“Being down South, we don’t get a whole bunch of video,” Collins said. “I’ve got about a quarter of tape on them. I know their point guard is standout and they’ve got a pretty good presence inside. We’re coming in kind of raw.”

On the flip side, the Reed coaching staff seems to have a pretty good handle on Foothill.

“We have watched film on them,” Schopper said. “We got their Sunrise Region championship game film from Liberty. They have a good guard, a couple good posts. They are a pretty good little team.”

- Centennial (29-2) vs. Reno (26-5), 3 p.m. -

It’s not a surprise to anyone close to the RHS program that the Huskies are in contention for a state championship again this winter. The Reno coaching staff believed it had a state-tournament-caliber team and scheduled accordingly. Reno’s five losses this winter have come against two teams. Three of those defeats were at the hands of North rival Reed and two came in December to Centennial.

Reno scheduled a non-league game the opening weekend of the season against Centennial, the defending state champion, and then traveled to Las Vegas to play in the Bulldogs’ Christmas Break tournament. The two teams met in the tourney title tilt.

Centennial captured double-digit wins in both games, but the second contest was a two-point game at halftime and Reno coach Shane Foster said both were valuable experiences.

“We needed to know where we stood so when the opportunity came up to play them, we jumped at it,” Foster said. “We got to measure ourselves and find out where we stood. At that point, we found out we had work to do if we wanted to contend for a state title.

“We’ve seen them play and we know exactly what they’ll do. So from that standpoint, it’s good. We also know how good they are. There’s no doubt in my mind they are the best team in the state, but we also believe if we go out and play our best game of the year, that we can win the game. Our kids are buying into that. We’ll go out, put our best foot forward and see if we can come away with a win.”

Reno, which was the last Northern 4A team to win a state title (2001), certainly won’t be overlooked by the perennial power Bulldogs.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for the North,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “A lot of people forget where Centennial’s success started and came from. That was me learning the North and the systems up there … The North coaches and kids understand the game. They get better because they’re well coached. They’re not going to digress. Reno teams are not scared to play Vegas schools.”

Centennial has not digressed either. The Bulldogs have won 23-straight games. Their only two losses of the season came at the Tournament of Champions in Arizona the week before Christmas.

Centennial has a reputation of boasting physically gifted athletes and applying staggering full-court pressure on its opponents. Most wilt under that pressure and then Centennial uses countless turnovers that turn into easy CHS buckets and lopsided scores.

“We know they’ll be in our face for 90 feet and 32 minutes,” Foster said. “Their pressure is relentless and very good. We have to be able to make good passes and run our stuff. If you get flustered, they get easy buckets and the next thing you know, you’re on the back side of a double-digit spread. And things don’t get better from there.”

Reno, which boasts five all-league caliber starters, was without two for the first meeting against Centennial and still without one for the second go-round. It should only help the Huskies’ cause to be at full strength for today’s affair.

“We weren’t healthy either time we played them,” Foster admitted. “But we got the most out of our kids and to say one kid would’ve made a difference, would be saying a lot. But I think we’ve improved since Christmas. Our kids know what this will be like. They should be mentally prepared. Now physically, when we play, we’ll have to handle the pressure a little bit better than we have.”

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