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Coronado erases early deficit, downs Las Vegas to reach Sunrise semifinals

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Coronado basketball players Michael Louder, Austin Nelson and Adam Schmitt.

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 | 12:08 a.m.

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Playoff bracket breakdown

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer discuss their way through the Sunrise and Sunset playoff brackets. They disagree on the early rounds, but come to a consensus on who will advance to the state championship.

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Coronado High basketball coach Jeff Kaufman spent the last three practices before the start of the playoffs trying to prepare his team for the speed and athleticism of the Las Vegas High players.

Simulating the Wildcats fast break in practice with his taxi squad, however, didn’t exactly work.

Las Vegas, using its speed to create easy scoring opportunities, wasted little time Tuesday in jumping out to a double-digit lead against Coronado in the Sunrise Regional quarterfinals.

But after falling behind by 12 points in the initial six minutes, Coronado finally showed why it is one of the regional’s No. 1 seeds.

The Cougars (20-5) trimmed their deficit to 33-32 by halftime and opened the third quarter on an 11-4 run to never trail again in a 69-63 victory.

Senior Austin Nelson, one of the area’s leading scorers, had a team-high 22 points to help Coronado advance to Thursday’s regional semifinals against Eldorado.

“We did a little bit of homework,” Kaufman said. “We knew they would come out fired up. We knew they would come out swinging. But we also knew their guys get a little out of control, and we also knew they don’t play a lot of guys.”

So, after enduring the first-quarter onslaught, Kaufman told his players to be patient. After all, they took everything Las Vegas had to throw and them and were still in the game.

“We took it. We endured,” the coach said. “We didn’t make very many shots in that first quarter, then we turned it up. Overall, the kids did what they were supposed to do; they executed.”

Coronado opened the second quarter on a 9-2 run and chipped away until it led 32-31 with seconds to play in the half. A Travon Langston put-back at the halftime buzzer gave Las Vegas a one-point halftime lead. But make no doubt about it, the momentum had clearly shifted.

“We had our game plan. We tried to counter by slowing the ball down and running our offense,” Nelson said. “We knew what we had to do. We had our game plan and we stuck to it.”

Coronado senior forward Adam Schmitt had seven points to help Coronado open the second half on an 11-4 run. It never trailed again, using a better effort defensively to frustrate Las Vegas into several missed opportunities.

Then, when Las Vegas point guard George Sanico picked up his fourth foul early in the fourth quarter, Coronado immediately applied its full-court pressure without the Wildcats’ ball-handler in the game to force three straight turnovers and build 63-57 lead.

Langston’s game-high 31 points kept Las Vegas competitive down the stretch. The Wildcats (13-14) eventually cut their deficit to two points with 90 seconds to play but couldn’t pull off the upset.

Coronado (20-5) advances to play Eldorado — another athletic team — Thursday at Foothill in the regional semifinals.

“We kind of know what is coming a little bit with (Eldorado’s) speed,” Kaufman said. “We are preparing for fast, but we still want to play our game.”

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