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Hug boys, Reno girls eager to tip off state basketball tournament
by Dan Eckles
Feb 20, 2013 | 2548 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - Hug senior Sam Williams leads the Hawks into a Division I State Tournament semifinal against Bishop Gorman Thursday.
Tribune file photo - Hug senior Sam Williams leads the Hawks into a Division I State Tournament semifinal against Bishop Gorman Thursday.
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Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reno's all-league point guard Gigi Hascheff and her RHS teammates will meet perennial state power Centennial in a state semifinal in Las Vegas Thursday night.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reno's all-league point guard Gigi Hascheff and her RHS teammates will meet perennial state power Centennial in a state semifinal in Las Vegas Thursday night.
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A year ago, the Bishop Gorman boys basketball team featured nine players that went on to play college basketball or football. It may have been the most talented team in state history. The Gaels squad drubbed North champion Hug 90-51 in the state championship game.

Hug has been looking for redemption ever since. Hug and Bishop Gorman both competed in the Wild West Shootout, hosted by Reno's Bishop Manogue High School in December. However, they did not face each other in the event. They will get to face each other again this week.

Sunset Region champion Bishop Gorman (27-3) and North champion Hug (23-6) will meet in a Division I state semifinal at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas Thursday at 4:40 p.m.

"My kids wanted the chance to play Gorman at the Wild West Shootout, but for whatever reason that did not happen," Hug coach Keith Crawford said. "My kids were excited when they learned they'd play Gorman. They'll be ready. It won't be a case of being star struck. We'll be ready to play."

The Hawks will need to be. The Gaels graduated a bevy of talent from last season's club, but the 2012-13 group is pretty good as well. Gorman is the top-ranked D-1 team in the state according to Maxpreps.com and it lost just three games all season, to Mater Dei (Calif.), Whitney Young (Ill.) and Findlay Prep, all considered national prep powerhouses.

"We saw them earlier in the year," Crawford said. "It's not the Gorman of 2012. I think we match up a whole lot better with them this year ... We'll match up and see what happens, but this is nothing like the Gorman team we played last year."

Still, the Gaels have weapons and depth. They average 71 points per game and have 11 players 6-foot 4-inches or taller, including 6-10 sophomore Stephen Zimmerman. Bishop Gorman is riding a 12-game win streak and has not lost since Christmas Break.

"It definitely has been a good season for us," Gaels coach Grant Rice said. "This is a group of guys that doesn't have as much experience as last year's team. That was an amazing group, but this group has worked their tails off. By no means has it been perfect basketball. We've been in a lot of close games, but I'm happy with the way the guys have progressed."

Hug is led by its 6-foot 6-inch senior center Sam Williams, who pours in 24.5 points a game, roughly 46 percent of the Hawks offense. No other HHS player scores more than eights per outing. Conversely, a trio of Gaels pour in more than 12 points a game.

If Hug wants to pull off the upset, it will need to play much better than it did against Carson last weekend, when it needed a furious fourth-quarter rally to force overtime and escape with a regional title. Hug managed just 21 points through three periods, but still managed a 53-49 overtime win in the regional final.

"We can't take a few minutes off, let alone three quarters," Crawford said. "We must play four quarters, sit down and get some stops. That's what it boils down to.

"We're excited. We'll use this as a business trip and try to compete Thursday night."

Rice had similar sentiments.

"We're looking forward to the game," he said. "We've played a lot of good, quality games, a lot of close games. We're definitely battle-tested. We're excited to be where we're at, excited to get to this week and still be playing."

Sunrise Region champion Canyon Springs and Sunset Region runner-up Centennial meet in the other boys semifinal, set to tip off at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Centennial (26-4) vs. Reno (25-3)

On the girls side, northern Nevada large-school champion Reno squares off against a school that is no rookie when it comes to state tournament play. The Huskies will battle perennial state power Centennial in the second girls semifinal Thursday. Game time is 6:20 p.m.

Centennial has won six state championships in the past 11 years, the most recent coming in 2011. Still, Reno knows what it's in for. The Huskies faced the Bulldogs three times last winter and beat them in a state semifinal. The two teams also met earlier this season, with Centennial taking a slim 54-49 win in the semifinals of the CHS tournament over Christmas Break.

"Playing Reno makes me nervous," Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. "Every time we play them it makes me nervous. I always respect the teams in the North. The teams are well coached. The kids play hard. It's a little different basketball. It's tough. I kind of feel like, 'Here we go again.'"

Reno coach Shane Foster has nothing but respect for Weitz and Bulldogs teams.

"I believe Centennial is the best team down South and if you're going to win a state championship, you'd have to beat them Thursday or Friday," Foster said, alluding to his team's draw of facing Centennial in a semifinal. "I think that first game this year gives our girls confidence they can play with Centennial."

Foster openly admits his team may have caught Centennial looking ahead to Reed when the Huskies upset the Bulldogs in a state semifinal a year ago. He knows that win, along with the close contest earlier this season, will have Centennial 100 percent focused on Thursday's North-South affair.

"If that was the case last year, it definitely won't be the case this year," Foster said.

This week's state tourney tilt should be a battle of size and wills. Centennial posts Jada Brown and Brianna Workman are headed to play college basketball at Arizona and Kansas respectively. However, Reno can match the Bulldogs' inside post presence with a pair of talented sisters, 6-2 junior Morgan McGwire and 6-4 freshman Mallory McGwire.

"I think it should be a good matchup," Foster said. "We have two big post players and they have two big post players. But we won't have the size advantage that we benefitted from last weekend at regionals. I think it comes down to who rebounds the best.

"Centennial has the philosophy that they'll shoot it from anywhere because they will control the glass and get some easy putbacks. When we beat them last year, we were pretty even on the boards."

Reno left the Truckee Meadows Wednesday morning on a bus headed for Clark County. At press time, the Huskies were still looking for a practice venue for Wednesday night but had lined up a gym at UNLV for a walkthrough Thursday morning. Foster doesn't expect the travel to faze his Huskies. He's just hoping the unfamiliar surroundings at the Orleans Arena don't lead to a poor shooting performance when Thursday's game time rolls around.

"Travel-wise, I think we'll be OK," Foster said. "But the Orleans is a tough place to shoot. When we were down there in 2009, I think we had our worst shooting game of the season. But we played in (UNR's) Lawlor last season and shot well. That should give us confidence."

Sunrise Region champion Liberty and Sunset Region runner-up Bishop Gorman clash in the first girls semifinal, slated for 3 p.m. Thursday.
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