Centennial has won all three regular season meetings between the two schools over the last two years, but Reno has won both matchups in state tournament play. The most recent of those came Thursday night in a Division I state semifinal at the Orleans Arena and Reno took a 53-44 victory.
The loss ended Centennial's season but with the win Reno (26-3) advances into Friday's state championship game at 6 p.m. against Bishop Gorman.
"We just talked in postgame," Reno coach Shane Foster said. "We can enjoy this one, but we'd better get ready because we've got one more game. We beat Centennial. That's great, but we did that last year. If you don't win the last one, you're left with kind of empty feeling. So we've got to get the big one."
The contest was close through three-plus periods, but Reno took control in the fourth. Centennial's Jada Brown, who has signed to play her college hoops at Kansas, knocked down a pair of free throws with 4:45 showing on the fourth-quarter clock. That got the northwest Vegas school within three, 44-41. That's as good as it got for the Bulldogs.
Reno responded, scoring on three of its next four possessions while holding Centennial scoreless in the same stretch. RHS freshman Mallory McGwire connected on three short jumpers, accounting for the trio of buckets that left the Huskies with a 50-41 lead and just 2:16 remaining on the game clock.
Reno continued to keep the pressure on Centennial. Huskies point guard Gigi Hascheff buried two foul shots at the 1:14 mark, forging Reno ahead by a 52-41 score. The 11-point margin was the widest of the night.
Centennial got a 3-pointer from Tramina Jordan and Reno's Shalen Shaw converted on 1 of 2 free throws in the final minute, accounting for the final nine-point gap.
Reno out-rebounded an extremely athletic and active Centennial squad, 31-24, to help its cause. The Huskies also limited the Bulldogs to a porous 14-of-49 shooting performance (28 percent). Conversely, Reno finished 22-of-43 (51 percent) shooting from the field.
"The offensive glass was big tonight," Foster said. "I thought the game would come down to rebounding, which was our focus."
The two teams combined for five points through the first five-plus minutes of the first period. Centennial had a 9-6 lead after a Breanna Workman runner with 1:08 to go in the initial quarter.
From there, it looked like Reno might grab the momentum and run away. The Huskies scored 12 of the next 14 points, a burst capped by back-to-back treys from Savannah Schultze. The spurt left Reno holding an 18-11 lead three minutes into the second quarter.
Unfortunately for Reno, Hascheff picked up her third foul and had to go to the bench. The Huskies' offense took a hit. It scored just two points through the remainder of the half. After leading by seven, 18-11, Reno went into halftime down 21-20.
Hascheff, who will play collegiately at Sacramento State next winter and is the RHS gang's leading scorer at 17 points per game, was limited to six points Thursday, but she still made the Huskies’ offense go. The little momentum Centennial had in the tourney tilt came with Hascheff sitting on the bench in foul trouble.
"They just turn up the pressure on you, but Gigi did a great job," Foster said. "She had a huge night. She does so much more than score. She handled the pressure. She got people involved."
McGwire led Reno with 14 points. Schultze finished with a trio of treys and 11 points, while Shaw chipped in 10.
“Mallory missed her first six shots, but she stayed aggressive," Foster said. "She could miss her first 20 shots and she'd still attack."
Workman was the lone Bulldogs player to post double figures in the scoring column, finishing with 13 points. Brown, Centennial's leading scorer was held to four points in defeat.