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Centennial girls face challenge for 5A title with ‘competitive’ field

Centennial girls basketball coach Karen Weitz said her team doesn’t take any opportunity to play for a state title for granted, contrary to what some might think.

The Bulldogs have had a long run of success that way. They’ve won the last eight state titles, but they’ll be challenged to keep that streak alive when the Class 5A state semifinals tip off Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Weitz called the remaining field — which consists of the top-seeded Bulldogs, No. 2 Bishop Gorman, No. 3 Democracy Prep and No. 4 Shadow Ridge — the “most competitive” she’s seen in years. Centennial learned that firsthand during the regular season. It was defeated 50-46 by Democracy Prep on Jan. 30 for its first loss to a Nevada team since 2015.

That means the last three games of the season carry rare intrigue.

Centennial (18-5) faces Shadow Ridge (17-6) in the first semifinal at 3 p.m. Thursday. Bishop Gorman (22-4) plays Democracy Prep (18-6) at 6:20 p.m.

The state title game is at 5 p.m. Friday.

“It’s that type of setting that you want the final four to be — your best four in the city,” Bishop Gorman coach Sheryl Krmpotich said.

Centennial was dealt a blow this offseason when three starters tore their ACLs.

That forced Weitz to rely on a group of freshmen, highlighted by rising prospect Nation Williams. Weitz said she’s been pleased with how the team’s young players have “meshed” with veterans like senior Danae Powell, a Fresno State commit.

“It’s having our starters ready to go, but most importantly having our bench ready to go,” Weitz said. “We’ve always stressed over the years that we feel like our bench is our X factor.”

After the loss to Democracy Prep, Weitz said the Bulldogs practiced the next day to look at what they needed to improve.

“You just got to move forward and got to put it in the past,” Weitz said. “It was a league game, but luckily it wasn’t for anything major at that time. Now that we go down the stretch in the playoffs, we know the importance of win-or-go-home (games) now, so you got to learn from it.”

Weitz is looking for her 15th state title. That would break a tie with Pahranagat Valley’s Amy Huntsman for the most in Nevada history.

Krmpotich is in the first year of her second stint as Bishop Gorman’s coach. She led the Gaels to four state titles from 1998 to 2016. She has a young, dynamic team this season primarily led by freshmen and sophomores.

“I love a challenge,” Krmpotich said. “I love the fact that you get to build something from the ground up, and I feel like I have enough in me coaching-wise.”

Democracy Prep coach Julius Barren said his team expected to get to this point. The Blue Knights won the 2A title last season and had its appeal to move up to 5A approved for this year.

The road hasn’t been easy for Democracy Prep, however. Last year’s 2A MVP Keonni Lewis tore her ACL before the season. Democracy Prep then announced Jan. 16 it was going to close the high school portion of the charter school at the end of the year, right before the Blue Knights played a game against Bishop Gorman. The Gaels won 54-44.

The school announced earlier this month it received enough funding to keep the high school open “for the 24-25 school year and beyond,” a letter to parents said.

“It just builds character and it builds being able to get through adversity,” Barren said. “We’ve been prepared for this moment. It’s been tough, but we’re still here. That’s been the tough part is making the adjustments to all the different things that’s been thrown at us.”

Barren said with the off-court “distractions out of the way,” he thinks the outcome against Bishop Gorman will be different if his team executes the game plan.

“Trying to get the girls to erase (the Bishop Gorman) games and treat this game as its own has been the focus,” Barren said. “We’re excited. We know it’ll be tough competition. We feel like if we play our A game, we’re confident.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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