Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009 | 10:50 p.m.
With two minutes left in Thursday's Sunset Regional semifinal game against Legacy, three Centennial players dove after a loose ball like the outcome of the game hinged on that one play.
But the game was already well in hand, with Centennial up by more than 50 points and on its way to a 94-37 victory.
"That's embedded in them," Centennial head coach Karen Weitz said of her team's intensity. "That's the way we practice everyday."
The Bulldogs victory over Legacy was never really in doubt, as Centennial went up by 19 points before the Longhorns even scored a basket and led by 44 points at halftime.
Midway through the first quarter, the question changed from whether Centennial would win, to whether the Bulldogs would score 100 points.
"I think we ran up against the number one team in the state," Legacy head coach Tiffany Richardson said.
Centennial (29-2) dominated the game from the opening jump, using their pressure defense to force turnovers and fast break opportunities. The Bulldogs started the game in a high-pressure full court press, and forced 12 turnovers in the first quarter.
Those turnovers led to easy baskets for the Bulldogs, who had had five players score in double figures.
Even with a big lead, Centennial continued to score at will. The Bulldogs backed off the press and fast break, but patiently worked through their half-court offense to find open players with easy shots under the basket.
"The bottom line is you still want to do things right," Weitz said.
Alexis Byrd orchestrated the Bulldogs offense and led all scorers with 26 points. She pushed the ball on the fast break and also hit her shots when left open, knocking down two three-pointers.
Centennial's sophomore guard Courtney Hayes put on a shooting display, going four-for-four on three-pointers in the first half and finishing with 18 points on the night. Deanna Daniels took care of the work in the paint, scoring 20 points.
"I think we shot pretty well tonight," Weitz said.
Kendra Erving led all Legacy (18-10) scorers with seven points.
Centennial has not lost since Dec. 30, and both of its losses have come to out-of-state teams. The Bulldogs have not faced much of a challenge from any local teams, blowing out nearly everybody they play.
The Bulldogs do not plan to change anything when they face Bishop Gorman for the Sunset Regional title on Friday at 5 p.m. at Palo Verde High School. The Gaels blew out the Panthers 70-37 on Thursday night.
"We know if we do what we need to do, we don't have to worry about anybody else," Weitz said.
Garrett Downing can be reached at [email protected] or 948-7803