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Balanced attack gives Centennial win at Palo Verde, division title

Bulldogs fight off Panthers box-and-one zone against Aaseem Dixon

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Justin M. Bowen

Joe Marshall (left) and Aaseem Dixon of Centennial embrace after beating Palo Verde 74-57 Tuesday, February 9, 2011 at Palo Verde High School.

Palo Verde-Centennial HSBB

Aaseem Dixon of Centennial shoots free throw against Palo Verde during their game Tuesday, February 9, 2011 at Palo Verde High School. Centennial won the game 74-57. Launch slideshow »

Centennial vs. Palo Verde

KSNV coverage of Sun high school basketball game of the week, Centennial vs. Palo Verde, Feb. 9, 2011.

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Big Gorman win; playoffs approaching

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss Gorman's win over Long Beach Poly, who was ranked as the No. 3 team in the nation. They also go through playoff scenarios that will be sorted out with this week's games.

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Centennial guards Joe Marshall and Malcolm Allen are often the smallest players on the court.

For most of Wednesday’s game at Palo Verde, they were also the best. Marshall, a 5-foot-9, 145-pound senior, and Allen, a 5-foot-11, 140-pound sophomore, combined to scored 26 points off the bench and lead Centennial to a monumental 74-57 victory against Palo Verde.

“My dad told me, ‘It doesn’t matter how tall you are, just play the game and you’ll be fine,’” Marshall said. “That’s the way I play.”

The Bulldogs closed the regular season by avenging one of only two losses in Northwest Division play and improving their league record to 14-2. More importantly, Centennial won its first division championship since the school opened 11 years ago.

“We had to make history,” said senior guard Aaseem Dixon. “This is the first Centennial championship division. I wanted to bring it home for us."

Only it wasn’t that simple. The Panthers were determined not to let Dixon, the Bulldogs bonafide star, beat them.

As it did earlier this season in a 57-54 victory, Palo Verde set up its entire game plan around stopping Dixon. The Panthers constantly had a body on Dixon and ran a box-and-one zone to limit his touches.

“I told them if they were going to box-and-one Aaseem, which we knew they were, somebody’s got to step up and be a difference,” Centennial coach Todd Allen said. “I knew our guards were quicker. They stepped up and made some plays.”

Instead of one person stepping up, nearly the whole Bulldogs roster emerged. Six players, including Dixon, scored at least 10 points.

Marshall led the Bulldogs with 14 points, while Allen chipped in 12 points and six assists.

“If they box-and-one, they are pretty much saying their four are better than ours,” Marshall said. “We took that as a challenge.”

Marshall was the first player to crack the zone with a pair of 3-point field goals during a big Centennial run in the second quarter. Other than the second quarter, when Centennial outscored Palo Verde 19-8, the game was fairly even.

Junior center Evan Martin was the other major contributor during Centennial’s run. Martin had five points, two rebounds, a block and a steal in the final three minutes before halftime. He finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

Martin helped overcome a stellar defensive performance from Palo Verde’s Nahjee Matlock, who also had a game-high 15 points. Although Dixon recorded 11 points, seven of them came late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided.

“Palo shocked us the first time,” Dixon said. “They gave me a box-and-one, trapped me and triple-teamed me. We learned from it and worked hard.”

Dixon wasn’t surprised with the key roles played by Marshall and Allen. He said they had really improved as the season went on and were vital pieces in Centennial’s recent tear.

The Bulldogs have bulldozed everything in their way, going on a six-game win streak by an average score of 72-53.

“After losing to Palo the first time and then Legacy back-to-back, I had them all check themselves in the mirror and they did,” Todd Allen said.

“They’ve been playing with a purpose. I’m so proud of them.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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