Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 | 12:05 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer take a look at Saturday's high school basketball game between Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep. They also break down the Palo Verde-Centennial game.
The Centennial High basketball team took sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division Friday by winning a back-and-forth affair against host Palo Verde, 67-64.
On most nights when the Bulldogs are victorious, it is brothers Malcolm and Marcus Allen leading the way, or senior center Evan Martin controlling the paint on the inside.
In this victory, however, senior post player Dallin Layton was equally important with 17 clutch points and a relentless defensive effort. Marcus Allen led Centennial with a game-high 27 points, but the victory wouldn’t have happened without Layton's performance.
When teammates filed out of the locker room after the game, several made sure to acknowledge his contributions. Layton, with a grin from ear to ear, humbly soaked in the moment — something he clearly won’t forget.
“It is different because I have never had the spotlight. Never,” he said.
Layton had a pair of baskets in the final minutes of the third quarter in helping Centennial close on a 6-0 run to take the lead for good. Martin finished with seven points while spending a good portion of the game defending Palo Verde’s twin towers of Jordyn Martin (6-foot-7) and Michael Buchanan (6-10).
But Layton was able to pick up the pieces on both ends of the court.
“Dallin is a workhorse. He is a role player,” Centennial coach Todd Allen said. “We always told him that if he hustles, good things would happen. It paid off for him tonight.”
The game wasn’t decided until the final minute. Palo Verde trailed 66-59, but cut its deficit to two points with 37 seconds remaining on a 3-pointer from Eris Winder and a short jumper from Nahjee Matlock.
Marcus Allen extended the Centennial lead to three points by converting one of two foul shots, but Palo Verde couldn’t even the game on its final possession.
The Allen brothers dueled all night in the backcourt with Palo Verde’s Matlock and Winder, helping Centennial take the first of two regular season games. Last year, each team won on the other's court, with Centennial eventually capturing the league and advancing to the Sunset title game.
At 17-1 overall and 8-0 in the Northwest, the Bulldogs again control their destiny. It’s nearly impossible to navigate through the Northwest undefeated, but that’s something Centennial is on pace to do. That’s especially true with contributions from unsung heroes such as Layton.
“We are just an unselfish team,” coach Allen said. “We don’t care who scores. We just want to get the win and move on.”
And despite a near-flawless record and winning two playoff games last year, the Centennial players still are playing with the desperation of an unproven team.
“Teams are overlooking us a little bit,” coach Allen said. “I don’t think we are getting the recognition (of other teams). The guys have been talking all week about that. They took it to heart.”
Winder led Palo Verde (12-2, 7-1) with 14 points, Buchanan had 11 points and Matlock finished with 10.