Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013 | 11 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer fill out their brackets for the Sunset and Sunrise regional tournaments.
The most popular command at Centennial basketball practices is “shoot.”
Senior twins Marcus and Malcolm Allen, two of the best players in Las Vegas, constantly implore their teammates to not pass up open looks. Junior point guard Khalil Thompson obliges most often.
“He’s dead-on in practice,” Centennial coach Todd Allen said of Thompson. “We keep telling him, ‘save those for the game.’ We keep telling him that game after game.”
The message got through Thursday evening in the Sunset regional semifinals. Thompson made Durango High’s BlazerDome look like his personal practice space, sinking eight of 12 three-point attempts to lead Centennial to an 80-70 victory over Arbor View.
Thompson, who played for Arbor View his freshman year before transferring, made five triples in the decisive third quarter alone.
“I thrive in these moments,” Thompson said. “I love these moments right here.”
The Bulldogs encountered a familiar problem in the first half, as the Aggies ran a triangle-and-two defense to try to force someone other than the Allen twins to beat them. For a while, it looked questionable whether anyone was capable.
Junior Justin Burks paced the Aggies, finishing with a game-high 28 points including an alley-oop dunk to open, but the Bulldogs had no equal for a stretch. Holding the Allen twins to no field goals for the entire second and third quarters, Arbor View led 49-48 with 11 minutes left in the game.
Within the next minute, Malcolm Allen drove into the lane on two consecutive possessions and kicked out passes to Thompson who was waiting in the corner. Thompson swished both of them, effectively pulling the Bulldogs away.
“Every time he penetrated, I was ready,” Thompson said. “I was ready the entire time. He kicked it out and I just knocked down my shots.”
That the Allen twins were still able to contribute in key moments when their shots weren’t falling — they went a combined 15-for-35 from the field — speaks to their well roundedness. Marcus Allen was a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line, finishing with 25 points after scoring 13 in the first quarter.
Malcolm Allen nearly notched a triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
“That’s just a confidence in their team,” Todd Allen said. “They have one goal in mind and we’re getting closer and closer to it.”
Centennial’s eye is on the state tournament, and a victory over Bishop Gorman in tomorrow night’s game at 7 would clinch a berth. Gorman won the first two matchups between the Southwest division rivals 79-71, the second coming in double overtime.
But the Bulldogs could find confidence in the emergence of a third standout like Thompson, who scored all of his 24 points through three-pointers and had four steals, this time around.
“We’re ready, I know they’re ready,” Thompson said. “We’re coming in hungrier. I think we’re going to get the win.”