Justice Ethridge leads Centennial girls to Holiday Classic platinum title

It’s been nearly three years since Centennial’s girls basketball team lost at home. And in perhaps the biggest threat to that streak, Centennial’s biggest star shined brightest.

Senior guard and UNLV commit Justice Ethridge poured in a season-high 32 points Friday to power the Bulldogs to a 59-39 victory over Etiwanda (California) in the championship game of the Las Vegas Holiday Classic’s platinum bracket at Centennial.

“We had to come out strong and not let them beat us on our home court,” Ethridge said. “We try to play every single game like they’re the same, no matter what the opponent looks like.”

Ethridge was the best player on the floor all night, but was almost flawless in the fourth quarter. She scored 15 points in the period, including a layup-steal-layup combo to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the night. She would have scored the Bulldogs’ final 17 points of the game, but instead dished to Eboni Walker, allowing the junior forward to drain the final bucket.

Ethridge finished with seven rebounds and a pair of assists, and was named tournament MVP.

“She can do everything,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “She’s very, very dangerous because to me, she will elevate her game for what needs to be done.

“When Justice wants to do it, Justice will do whatever she wants to do.”

Centennial actually trailed 12-8 after the first quarter, then used a 16-6 second quarter to pull away. The Bulldogs built the lead up to 34-18 in the third, only to see Etiwanda trim to a three-point game before the final period. Centennial outscored the Golden Eagles 19-8 in the fourth.

No other Bulldog but Ethridge had more than Melanie Isbell’s eight points, but that’s not to say the contributions weren’t there. Walker had 10 rebounds, Daejah Phillips had nine boards, and Isbell and Phillips were named to the all-tournament team.

“Obviously if you host a tournament, you’d like to win your tournament,” Weitz said. “You have some top quality teams here, so winning it is obviously even bigger when you have those teams participating.

Not only have the Bulldogs not lost at home since Jan. 5, 2015 to Foothill, that was also their last loss to a Nevada team. This tournament didn’t pose too much of a threat to that particular streak. After the tournament ended, the three other local teams — Legacy, Palo Verde and Desert Pines — were a combined 6-32.

Centennial’s JV team, which at some points throughout the tournament included varsity players, won the secondary bracket of the tournament, and outscored the three local teams 203-112 in three games.

What made the tournament competitive was the teams from California and Arizona. The field included Clovis West (California), which split its two games with Centennial last year, and Seton Catholic (Arizona), which Centennial beat by just three points last year and in the semifinals Friday.

“The comment that I get from people when I ask them is that it’s gotten ‘too competitive,’ which is frustrating because I get that from out-of-town people that used to come as well,” Weitz said. “We’re going to shoot next year just to keep it competitive because that’s what we want to do. That’s the way I see it, but the truth is the truth.”

Contact Justin Emerson at jemerson@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2944. Follow @J15Emerson on Twitter.

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