With nine appearances since 2006, Centennial is easily the veteran heading into next week’s 5A District Three Tournament championship.
They’re the new kids.
The Patriots and Mustangs each won semifinal girls basketball games Saturday night, punching their tickets to state and setting up the third meeting of the season between the two teams — this time with a district championship on the line.
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Top-ranked Eagle (22-1), which has beaten Centennial twice this season, won the program’s only district title in 1998, while Centennial (20-3) is going for its second championship in three seasons.
Tipoff is 7 p.m. Friday at Mountain View High.
“Eagle’s honestly a really great team,” said Centennial senior Tori Williams, the 5A SIC scoring leader. “We’ve just got to go in to practice focused, and defense is going to win games, so we better play some good defense.”
EAGLE 63, BORAH 34
For the first time this season, Eagle senior Cassidy Tiegs said she woke up feeling nervous.
Not because she didn’t have confidence in her team, but because she knew there was a lot riding on Saturday’s district semifinal against the Lions (17-7).
“I think just knowing this is the game that we’ve got to win to go to the district championship, it means more. It’s not just another game,” Tiegs said. “I mean, we have to think about it like (another game), but we know it’s not.”
The nerves were evident early as Borah locked down on Eagle’s shooters with a tight man-to-man defense for a 9-2 lead with under 3 minutes to play in the first quarter.
But once junior Janie King swished the first 3-pointer of the night for the Mustangs, their game seemed to fall into place.
As they’ve done all season, the Mustangs’ defense fed their fast-paced offense, holding the Lions to just three points in the second quarter for a 36-12 advantage at the half.
Senior Abby Mangum notched a game-high 13 points and was one of four Mustangs to reach double figures. Tiegs added 12 points and five rebounds, King had 11 points and reserve McKenna Emerson scored all 10 of her points in the second half.
“That’s what sets our team apart is that we have such a deep bench,” Mangum said. “If one of our players is in foul trouble, gets hurt or has to go out of the game for any reason, there’s a sub who will do just as good a job.”
The win sends Eagle to its third consecutive state tournament appearance, where the Mustangs will be one of the favorites after eight straight weeks at No. 1 in the state media poll and a 13-game winning streak.
“It feels amazing, but right now we have the chance to win districts,” Tiegs said. “I think that’s what we have to focus on now.”
CENTENNIAL 39 MOUNTAIN VIEW 30
Knowing it would take just a 3-pointer or two for the Mavericks to get back into the game, Centennial’s defense never got comfortable.
Head coach Candace Thornton made sure of it.
“We have been working all week, honestly, to just be mindful of their shooters,” Thornton said. “That is their strength, and we knew that.”
The focus on defense paid off, leading to Centennial’s second straight win against Mountain View after losing to the two-time defending state champions in all three meetings last season.
While the Mavericks were able to hold 5A SIC scoring leader Williams to 11 points — well below her season average of 20.5 points — they couldn’t find the offensive spark they needed.
Mountain View senior Taeli Carrillo and junior Alison Chanhthala each made three 3-pointers, but the Mavericks finished just 23.3 percent from the field and committed 11 turnovers.
Centennial turns its focus to Eagle, which beat the Patriots by 13 points in their previous two meetings this season.
“They got us both times this season, but my girls are peaking,” Thornton said. “We feel good.”