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Sierra Vista girls seek change

Sierra Vista’s last two Sunset Region girls basketball playoff games weren’t exactly memorable.

Two trips to Centennial, two losses by 35 or more points, two seasons painfully ended.

But the Mountain Lions are hoping to make some different memories this season.

Sierra Vista, 20-8 overall, will host a first-round playoff game for the first time when it faces Palo Verde at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’ve got three girls who have played on varsity all four years, and I know they really wanted to have a home playoff game,” Sierra Vista coach Lindsay Whalen said. “It’s just good to go out on your home floor one more time.”

The rest of the Sunset and Sunrise Region girls playoff games also tip off Tuesday. Regional semifinals and championships are Thursday and Friday at Liberty and Palo Verde.

For the Mountain Lions, being at home means no bus ride and no matchup with Centennial. At least not yet.

“It’s a great honor for us,” junior point guard Jeanette Jackson said. “We couldn’t be more excited.”

The Mountain Lions earned the Southwest League’s No. 2 seed by going 13-3 in league play, including two losses to league champion Bishop Gorman.

Sierra Vista lost its first two games this season before reversing its fortune with eight straight wins, one of two streaks of at least seven victories this year.

“At the start of the season, we just took things game by game, but as we improved, our goals improved,” Jackson said.

Among those goals was moving up in the Southwest after consecutive fourth-place finishes, including last year when the team was 21-10 overall.

“We’ve got a little bit better mix of chemistry this year, and we’ve added in some younger kids that have brought us a little burst of energy,” Whalen said.

The biggest burst of energy usually comes from Jackson, who leads the team in scoring and is one of the top guards in the region.

“She’s definitely stepped up into more of a leadership role,” Whalen said. “She’s improved her work ethic. We’ve always known that she’s talented, but she’s brought even another dimension to it this year.”

The Mountain Lions also rely on contributions from three veteran seniors —  Johnie Pride and Nicolette Grigsby in the post and guard Teena Baxter.

They’ll need solid games from several players Tuesday to be successful.

And not that they’re looking ahead, but if the Mountain Lions were to win the opener, they could meet … Centennial in the region semifinals.

“We’re trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves,” Whalen said. “We’re happy to be there and to just keep improving.”

In the other Sunset matchups: Mojave (14-8) is at Gorman (22-5), Bonanza (15-7) at Legacy (16-11) and Durango (17-12) at Centennial (23-4).

In the Sunrise Region: Valley (11-12) plays at Liberty (22-4), Canyon Springs (19-11) at Green Valley (22-4), Foothill (17-10) at Las Vegas (16-11) and Silverado (18-8) at Desert Pines (17-11).

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