On paper, Thursday’s matchup against Centennial might not be ideal for Canyon Springs’ girls basketball team.
The Bulldogs are the four-time defending Class 4A state champions, ranked fifth nationally by USA Today and defeated Canyon Springs this season.
In reality, there’s nowhere else the Pioneers would rather be.
Canyon Springs (25-3) will make just its second appearance in a region final when it battles the Bulldogs for the Mountain Region title at 5 p.m. Thursday at Legacy. Regardless of the outcome, the Pioneers will compete for the first time in the Class 4A state tournament, which begins Wednesday.
“The girls have worked hard, they bought into what we are trying to do,” Canyon Springs coach Chris Walker said. “We have a great team. They’re all competitors. They always want to do better.”
The Pioneers are getting a second chance after having dropped an 86-49 decision to Centennial in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic in December. Canyon Springs trailed 43-29 at halftime and had trouble handling the Bulldogs’ impressive depth.
“We played OK in the first half, but turnovers just killed us,” Walker said. “We just have to keep our composure.”
The Bulldogs have tons of experience. They will be making their 20th straight region final appearance and are in search of their ninth straight region crown.
None of the Pioneers’ players has been this far in the postseason. The team’s only other appearance in a region final was in 2013.
“We just need to come out with the same intensity we’ve had,” Pioneers junior guard Sydnei Collier said. “We can’t be scared. We just have to show them that we can compete and that we’re just as good as they are.”
The winner of Thursday’s game will face Desert Oasis or Bishop Gorman in the Southern Nevada championship game Saturday. The Southern Nevada champion receives a bye into the semifinals of the six-team state tournament. The other three southern teams and the Northern Region runner-up will play in quarterfinal games Wednesday.
Walker said his team won’t change its approach Thursday, even though it knows it is guaranteed a spot in the state tournament.
“You play the same way,” Walker said. “We’ll make adjustments in the game if we have to.”
Contact reporter Bartt Davis at email@example.com or 702-383-4690.
Desert Region championship
Desert Oasis (20-4) vs. Bishop Gorman (20-7), 5 p.m.
Mountain Region championship
Centennial (27-1) vs. Canyon Springs (25-3), 5 p.m.