Published Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 | 10:54 p.m.
Centennial deflected an in-bounds pass towards a couple of its own defenders for what looked like a certain second-quarter turnover until Desert Pines’ Darnell Washington somehow got his hands on the ball. Washington batted it towards teammate Milos Uzan waiting in the corner behind the 3-point line.
Everything was falling, and even the broken plays were working out for the Jaguars in an 84-67 Mountain Region semifinal victory over the Bulldogs Tuesday evening at Legacy High.
“We’ve been gritting them out and defending and grinding them out,” Desert Pines coach Mike Uzan said. “We were due for an explosive night, and I think tonight was it.”
The victory was Northeast League champion Desert Pines’ 15th straight, and puts it in position to win a region title in its first year since rejoining the 4A classification. The Jaguars will take on Arbor View at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Legacy for the Mountain championship.
Regardless of the outcome, they’ll still be alive and vying for a state championship. Under the reformatted playoff system, the top two teams from each region are guaranteed a spot in next week’s six-team state tournament.
“We have weekly goals, three goals for this week,” Mike Uzan said. “We got through one of them.”
The aforementioned Washington-to-Milos Uzan connection was part of a barrage of early 3-pointers, as the Jaguars made eight of their first 11 shots from beyond the arc. Their precision was the biggest contributor to building an early 24-point lead that Centennial never threatened to bring down to single digits.
Although the junior Washington and freshman Milos Uzan lived up to their lofty reputations for the Jaguars, they were neither exclusively nor immediately the standouts.
Sophomore Dayshawn Wiley hit his first three 3-pointers in the first quarter to give Desert Pines a cushion and finished with a game-high 20 points. He then appeared to transfer his hot-hand to freshman Jamir Stephens, who hit a pair of triples off the bench as part of an 11-point night.
Milos Uzan, the team’s leading scorer, was happy to play distributor until his turn emerged and compiled a varied stat line to show for it. He finished with 19 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
“Defense leads to offense so we were just trying to lock them up on defense to make for easy shots on offense,” Milos Uzan said.
The 6-foot-7, 255-pound Washington severely limited the Bulldogs’ interior scoring options. Centennial senior Savio Rivera and sophomore Craig Comanche each had success driving at different points on the game as they had 17 points apiece, but not consistently enough to overcome Desert Pines' shooting 52 percent from the floor.
Washington was just as much of a nuisance on the other end where he put up 16 points and had five offensive boards out of his total 12 rebounds on the night. Centennial’s best second-half run, when it got the margin down to 13 points, was interrupted by a series of dunks, including a couple by Washington.
On the second, Washington rumbled down from the other end of the court and threw down a tomahawk dunk.
“That brought a lot of energy,” Milos Uzan said.
There’s a lot of focus on Bishop Gorman going for its eighth straight state championship, but it’s not the only team looking to extend a streak. Desert Pines could win its third straight title next week after taking a pair on the lower level the last two seasons.
Some may have been skeptical of the Jaguars’ chances against increased competition, but they always believed they would be in this position. That’s why merely securing a state-championship berth didn’t mean much to Milos Uzan.
“Not a goal,” he said. “We’re trying to win it, so once we get that, we can celebrate.”
Arbor View pulls away from Cheyenne to set up region title game
Cheyenne's dream run came to an end. Arbor View's lived on.
The Aggies defeated the Desert Shields 80-64 in the nightcap at Legacy High. Cheyenne led by one point at halftime, but Arbor View ignited in the second half.
The Northwest League champion Aggies created separation behind 29 points from senior Favour Chukwukelu. Senior Tyre Williams, junior Donovan Yap and junior Larry Holmes all chipped in 14 points apiece.
Arbor View wasn't one of the favorites in the Mountain at the beginning of the year, but have proven to be one of the top teams throughout and now will have a state-championship appearance and region-championship shot against Desert Pines to show for it. Cheyenne was the most unlikely participant left in the playoffs, as it was a No. 4 seed but upset both Faith Lutheran and Legacy to reach the region semifinals.