Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010 | 7:46 p.m.
The Liberty High boys basketball team rallied back from a four-point halftime deficit to defeat Western High 62-57 on Wednesday and advance to the finals of the Las Vegas Prep Championships Platinum Division.
“In the second half, we played with a lot more defensive intensity, and that led to some easy transition baskets,” said Liberty coach Pat Welby. “We felt we could run out on them and we were able to convert in transition. We did a much better job of that in the second half than in the first half.”
After trailing 30-26 at halftime, the Patriots opened the second half on a 10-2 run to take a 36-32 lead following a Rhandy Tomlinson offensive rebound and layup.
The Warriors answered back with a 9-0 run to give Western a 41-36 lead with 10:12 left to play following a Sir Washington transition bucket.
Western senior forward Aaron Buckley hit a layup to give the Warriors their biggest lead of the game at 50-42 midway through the second half.
Liberty’s sophomore point guard Ceferino “Rino” De Los Santos answered back with two consecutive 3-point field goals to trim the Warriors lead to two points at 50-48.
Patriots guard Jeremy Lagasca hit two free throws and forward Aaron Navitsky made a layup following an offensive rebound to give Liberty the lead following a 10-0 run.
Buckley hit a 3-point field goal on the ensuing Warriors possession to give Western a 53-52 lead, but Navitsky immediately answered back with a layup to retake the lead for the Patriots at 54-53.
Lagasca converted a traditional three-point play on the next Patriots offensive possession to give Liberty a 57-53 lead with 2:19 left to play.
De Los Santos made a transition layup with 42 seconds remaining to give Liberty a five-point lead, which helped secure the victory for the Patriots.
De Los Santos scored all eight of his points in the second half with all three baskets coming at key moments in the game for the Patriots.
“Rino is just a little sophomore, but he’s got the heart of a champion,” Welby said. “He hit those big two threes and he was able to push the ball in transition.”
The Patriots were led on offense by Navitsky, who scored a game-high 17 points. He was also a key contributor on both the offensive and defensive glass.
“Aaron has been our leader on both ends of the court, scoring and rebounding, and he does a great job for us,” Welby said.
Lagasca finished with 11 points, seven coming after halftime.
Western was led on offense by the trio of Kentrell, Kenyon and Washington. Kentrell finished with 15 points; Kenyon and Washington each had 11.
Western had to battle fatigue in the semi-finals matchup against Liberty after defeating Valley 79-76 in overtime Wednesday morning.
Liberty advanced to the semi-finals of the Las Vegas Prep Championships Platinum Division via a quarterfinal bye.
Liberty defeated Hazard High of Kentucky on Monday and disposed of Chaparral and Carson on Tuesday to win its pool and advance to Platinum Division play on Wednesday.
The Patriots will face the winner of the Foothill-Desert Vista (Ariz.) game in the Platinum Division championship game at 3 p.m. Thursday at Las Vegas High.
“It’s very big,” Navitsky said of advancing to the Platinum Division finals. “We’re in the top division and hopefully we can get the win tomorrow. It’s very significant for our program to go to the finals.”
A fresh coat of paint and a fresh perspective are among the changes being made around Western High School.
Western is one of five turnaround schools that missed the marks set by No Child Left Behind and now faces the challenge of increasing student achievement.
The school is the third oldest in the district and its campus lies near Decatur Boulevard and Veterans Memorial Highway. The majority of students attending Western are minorities from disadvantaged homes. Western is known for having a rough past, but students are optimistic about the future of their school.
Change is apparent according to students interviewed in September.
“When I was in eighth grade, I was told I was going to get shot or stabbed when I came to Western,” said senior Kole Yanez, 17. “That might have been true 15 years ago, but now, you don’t see that here.”
Rules are tightly enforced on campus. The school keeps a strict dress code policy and cell phone use during class time is not permitted.
Halls are designated by grade level giving students a sense of ownership and community. Pride is clearly visible at pep rallies and sporting events. The newfound pride might just be he medicine needed to alleviate the 8 percent dropout rate, the highest in the district.
“It’s like building a house. You need a strong foundation,” said Neddy Alvarez, principal. “You need those strong relationships. When kids know we care about them, the learning will take place.”
- Year built:
- Principal (Year Hired):
- Neddy Alvarez (2008)
- Mission Statement:
- “The mission of Western High School is to promote scholarship, encourage good citizenship, and embrace our cultural diversity.”
- Approximately 2,400
- Notable alumni:
- Frank Hawkins, former NFL player
Capt. Nicole Malachowski, first female Thunderbird
Ronnie Vannucci, drummer of The Killers
Tom Collins, Clark County commissioner
- School Report Card:
Compiled by Gregan Wingert