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October 24, 2017

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Centennial girls win third straight state basketball title

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Jesse Granger

Members of the Centennial High girls basketball team celebrate their victory over Bishop Manogue in the state title game, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017.

A dynasty is defined as a powerful group or family that maintains its position for a considerable time. Next to that should be a picture of the Centennial High girls basketball team.

The Bulldogs capped off their three-year reign tonight with a 97-52 win over Bishop Manogue in the 4A state championship game at Cox Pavilion.

Centennial came out fast and led 9-0 before the Reno school scored its first points. The Bulldogs led by 28 at halftime and cruised to the finish line.

“It’s sad because it’s our last game together but at the same time it’s hard to be sad because we just came out here and did everything we wanted to for our season,” senior Samantha Thomas said.

Justice Ethridge led Centennial with 24 points. She scored 22 in the first half, including an NIAA championship game record six 3-pointers.

“Justice is like a silent assassin and I say that all the time,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “The girl has so many things in her arsenal you don’t even know. Shooting is obviously one of them, but she can get to the basket and she can defend.”

Thomas finished with 16 points and the Bulldogs combined for nine blocks as a team.

It was Centennial’s 57th straight win against Nevada opponents. The Bulldogs are 79-1 against in-state opposition over the last three years and have an overall record of 93-5 over that span.

“I think definitely having the quality of players that we have helps, but the fact that they are so coachable, they listen and they understand the game is really what it is,” Weitz said. “A lot of times you get kids that are great players but they don’t really understand the game.”

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Centennial High girls basketball players and fans celebrate their victory over Bishop Manogue in the state title game, Friday, Feb. 24, 2017.

Centennial also fits the “powerful group or family” portion of the definition as well. As the girls exited the court they were showered with hugs from family members dressed in Centennial garb and former players from past Centennial teams.

“Coach Weitz really digs us into a culture of being a family and we are always with each other,” Thomas said. “It’s nice to have everyone here and it really feels like family.”

In search of better competition Weitz and the Bulldogs have started playing a national schedule before getting into league play. In January, Centennial knocked off the No. 19 in the country St. Mary’s High, then blew out the No. 2 team in the country at the time, Clovis West, 70-46.

The Bulldogs finished the season ranked No. 1 in the West Region and No. 4 in the country by USA Today.

“We weren’t afraid to seek out the best,” Weitz said. “To be the best you have to play the best and they wanted to do it.”

And the season again ended with a familiar sight — Weitz and her players hoisting the state championship trophy.

“This feels even better knowing that we’ve traveled and we’ve beaten people,” Thomas said. “We went out there after the competition and then we came back and won state.”

The blowout wins have become commonplace for Centennial. Over the last three seasons they’ve won games against Nevada opponents by an average of more than 40 points per game.

Only seven of Centennial’s 43 wins in state over the last two years have been by less than 40 points, and none have been by fewer than 25.

When Weitz took over at Centennial 16 years ago, it had been 20 years since the last state championship by a school from Southern Nevada. The Bulldogs broke the streak, and tonight celebrated their ninth state championship under Weitz.

“She’s a great coach and I love playing for her,” Thomas said. “Everyone is willing to put in work for her because she puts in so much work for us.“

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