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Raiders set for state tournament
by Dan Eckles
Feb 23, 2011 | 926 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed High girls basketball coach Sara schopper was all business at the Raiders' practice Tuesday afternoon.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed High girls basketball coach Sara schopper was all business at the Raiders' practice Tuesday afternoon.
It's been four years since the Reed High School girls basketball team made the trek to Las Vegas for the 4A State Tournament. None of the current Raiders were on the roster of that 2007 team that won the Northern 4A, but sixth-year coach Sara Schopper remembers the trip.

She recalled the quick plane ride to Clark County and how perennial state power Centennial made quick work of her Raiders in a state semifinal. She's hoping a change in travel plans is just the beginning of a change in outcomes.

Schopper and her Raiders (26-0) hop on a bus at 8 a.m. today for the eight- or nine-hour bus ride to Las Vegas. The RHS club will work out tonight in Las Vegas and then be set for Thursday's 6:20 p.m. state semifinal clash against Centennial at the Orleans Arena.

"I have mixed feelings," Schopper said. "I'd like to get on a flight and go, but I have been to state when we flew down and not been as focused. Maybe a bus ride will be good for us. We can watch film on the way down and get mentally prepared. No one likes to sit on a bus for nine hours, but it might be good for our team, absorb the whole experience. I'll let you know how it turns out. We will have done it both ways."

The Raiders will need to be ready to go when they suit up to play the Bulldogs. While Reed is undefeated and has been ranked first in the state throughout the winter, Centennial is no slouch. The northwest Las Vegas school is 30-1 on the season, ranked second and riding a 24-game winning streak.

There won't be any secrets once the teams hit the hardwood. Schopper knows all about Centennial's relentless full-court pressure and in-your-face man-to-man defense.

"Centennial is quick. They have quick guards," she said. "They're scrappy. I've seen most of their points come off turnovers. We're just preparing for the press and taking care of the ball. I think we kind of do some of the same things. We're both running teams and we both feed off turnovers. It should be a dog fight. It should be a good game.

"I think we do our best work and I'm excited to see us play against their full-court pressure defense,” Schopper added.

Centennial coach Karen Weitz won't be surprised about much Reed does either. CHS coaches were in the stands at the Northern 4A final Saturday and have done their homework on the Raiders.

"We know they're ranked No. 1 in the state," Weitz said, “and we know they're undefeated. Any time you do that, you're doing something right. … I think they're a lot like we are. They don't have just one or two people that can score. They're pretty balanced."

Both teams boast some gaudy numbers. Reed has rolled over opponents all season. The Raiders have played just two games with a final margin in single digits, one of those being a 45-40 win over Galena in the regional final last weekend. Reed had beaten every other in-state foe by 23 or more points.

If there's a knock on Reed, it's that the Raiders did not play as tough a preseason schedule as in years past.

"I would have liked to have seen us play in the (top) platinum division in the West Coast Jamboree and not to get a loss, but to see us compete,” Schopper said. “Our (scheduling) decisions were financial more than anything else. I don't want to tell parents it's a $600 spirit pack to play varsity basketball. It's a tough economy. That's where our budget hurt us.

"I would've loved to have played (California powers) Clovis (of suburban Fresno) or St. Mary's (of Stockton), Orinda or Hanford to see where we're at. It would've been nice to have been pushed a few more times. But Galena on Saturday prepared us most for state. They gave us a hard game. We had to adapt and find a way to win it. That was the best game to prepare us for state."

Centennial has not lost to a Nevada opponent all season either. The Bulldogs' lone loss of the year came Dec. 21 to Narbonne High of Harbor City, Calif., 60-48, in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix. Centennial's closest score to a Silver State opponent was a 54-26 win over Faith Lutheran on Jan. 7. The Bulldogs even drubbed Sunset rival and defending state champion Bishop Gorman, 82-50, in last week's regional final.

"Obviously, I feel good about where we're at," Weitz said. "We're getting back to the state championship after losing in the regional final and missing out last year. We've got a lot of new kids so it's exciting for them."

Both coaches know a challenge lies ahead for their teams and both are working to get their athletes to see the big picture in the season's final weekend.

"Everybody needs to show up if we want to be successful," Weitz said. "I want our team to be relaxed to do the things we've worked on all year. We can't get away from that."

Reed, which was blown out in the state championship game a year ago, knows how close it was and wants nothing more than to win it all. The winner of the Reed-Centennial matchup will face the winner of Thursday's other semifinal, Bishop Gorman vs. Liberty, in Friday's state final, scheduled for 6 p.m.

"We're not going to down there, just happy to go," Schopper said. "We're going down there to hang a banner. We do talk about it. We've talked about it the whole season. We won't be thankful we're there. We're going down there to do something. It would be neat to bring a banner back north and I really do think this team has the ability to do that."

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