For each of the past eight seasons, Centennial and Bishop Gorman have met in the Sunset Region girls basketball final.
It's close to joining death and taxes as one of life's certainties.
But for a few moments Thursday, the streak was in serious doubt.
Palo Verde made the Gaels sweat a bit in the first half of Thursday's region semifinal at Desert Oasis before Gorman pulled away for a 61-39 win and set up yet another meeting in Nevada's best girls basketball rivalry.
"Everybody gets hyped for that. You have to have a rivalry," Gorman coach Sheryl Krmpotich said. "You like to have games that are competitive where the crowd is excited and it's packed. This is what February is all about."
Gorman (23-5) used a spark from post Zhane Dikes and an explosive transition game to pull away from Palo Verde (21-8).
That, coupled with Centennial's 76-37 rout of Sierra Vista earlier in the day, means the Bulldogs will face Gorman for a ninth straight time in the region final, at 5 p.m. today at Desert Oasis.
"We came out really flat and on our heels," Krmpotich said. "I don't know what we were thinking. It was all kind of a deer-in-the-headlights look."
The Gaels made just 8 of 26 shots and had nine turnovers in a first half in which they looked lost and took only a 19-18 lead to the locker room.
Palo Verde, which held Desert Oasis to 21 points on Wednesday, frustrated the Gaels and had them out of rhythm.
Enter Dikes, who scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half.
After Jasmin Kiley gave Palo Verde a 21-19 lead with a banked-in 3-pointer, Dikes hit three baskets -- two in transition -- in a 49-second span.
Gorman never trailed again.
In all, the Gaels had 10 transition baskets in the second half and forced the Panthers into 17 second-half turnovers.
"Our defense is our best offense," Krmpotich said. "Once we started picking it up and being aggressive and trying to get them out of their comfort zone, it was better."
The Gaels led 35-27 early in the fourth quarter, but consecutive transition baskets by Dikes, Amber Lane and Toneisha Childress bumped the lead to 14.
Dikes also had nine rebounds for Gorman, which made 18 of 33 shots in the second half. Lane added 14 points, and Childress and Major nine each.
Kiley paced Palo Verde with nine points.
■ Centennial 76, Sierra Vista 37 -- The Bulldogs (29-1) punched their ticket to the region final by putting on a rebounding clinic against the Mountain Lions (21-7).
Centennial outrebounded Sierra Vista 63-27, grabbing 33 offensive boards and quickly turning the game into a rout.
"I thought we were missing a lot of what we call bunnies in the first quarter," Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. "I don't know if it was jitters, nerves, whatever."
After struggling to shoot well, the Bulldogs led only 18-8 after quarter. But they stretched it to 48-10 at the half.
Courtney Hayes, a 5-foot-5-inch guard, had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Centennial, which got 16 points from Tamera Williams.
Jada Brown came off the bench to add nine points and 13 rebounds, and Shannon Brown had nine points and nine rebounds in the first half.
Sierra Vista had two offensive rebounds in the first half and only seven for the game, rarely getting more than one opportunity to score.
"We do work on boxing out, and we try to do the one-and-done (shot) theory," Weitz said. "Obviously, some games they buy into it more than others, but it's definitely something that we talk about."
The Bulldogs did a masterful job of defending Mountain Lions guard Jeanette Jackson in the first half.
Sierra Vista's leading scorer, Jackson had only two first-half points. She collected her third foul two minutes into the second quarter and went to the bench. Jackson finished with 16 points, nine in the fourth quarter.
"We tried to limit her touches," Weitz said. "We just took our two best defenders and kept trading them off on her."
Centennial took full advantage, forcing 14 turnovers in the second quarter and running away.
Contact reporter Bartt Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5230.