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April 24, 2014

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high school basketball:

Centennial rallies to force overtime, knock off Canyon Springs for date with Gorman in state finals

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Sam Morris

Centennial basketball player Marcus Allen Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.

Prep Sports Now

Signing off for the year with state tournament talk

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer work through their final podcast of the school year by discussing the state basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena this weekend.

Marcus Allen often shoots 25 free throws in the Centennial High gym each morning before heading to class.

Then, when the Bulldogs’ senior guard returns home, he’s back on the court working on his game in the backyard, including another round of free throws. With each attempt, he imagines the game is on the line.

The experience paid off Thursday in the Division-I state semifinals at the Orleans Arena.

Centennial was trailing Canyon Springs by two points with 16 seconds remaining when Allen got fouled taking the ball to the basket. Allen, just like he was in his backyard, buried the two attempts to even the game at 69-all and force overtime.

Centennial never trailed in overtime, forcing five turnovers that led to easy baskets in a 84-72 victory in advancing to face Bishop Gorman at 8 p.m. Friday at the Orleans Arena for the state championship.

Centennial trailed 68-62 with less than two minutes remaining, but Canyon Springs couldn’t make its free throws in giving the Bulldogs a chance to mount a comeback. And, when it came time for Centennial to go the charity stripe, Allen didn’t flinch under pressure.

“You know what? I just cleared my mind like I was in my backyard,” Marcus Allen said. “No pressure. Zoned everyone out and hit the two shots, and from there we got on a roll.”

While Allen’s free throws, and game-high 37 points, gave Centennial the win, its biggest shot came from 6-foot-6 post player Eddie Davis. Davis drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:24 remaining in regulation to cut the Centennial deficit to one point, 68-67.

“Once I shot it, (my teammates) realized we are back in (the game),” Davis said. “We were ready. We built on it and came back.”

Gerard Davis made 1-of-2 foul shots for Canyon Springs to extend the lead to two points and set the table for Allen to force overtime. The Stanford-committed guard drove to the basket and elevated high for a layup, which he missed while being fouled.

It was a gutsy play when Centennial’s season was seconds away from prematurely ending.

In overtime, Allen and Davis scored for Centennial on its initial two possessions and the Bulldogs never looked back. Soon, the lead was double-digits.

“This is amazing for us. These kids don’t quit,” Centennial coach Todd Allen, no relation, said. “I know don’t what to say.”

It wasn’t the first time Centennial needed to rally.

Canyon Springs won the first quarter 19-12 with Chris Nelson making a pair of 3-pointers to open the game and playing tough defense on Allen. Allen scored just two points in the opening quarter and barely touched the ball thanks to Nelson’s tough defense.

In the second quarter, however, Centennial had its way. Allen scored 16 points, and his twin, Malcolm, was equally effective in helping the Bulldogs build a 38-30 halftime lead. Malcolm Allen finished with 17 points, combining all season with his brother to give Centennial a potent one-two scoring punch.

They’ll get the chance to go out as champions Friday against Gorman in the fourth meeting between the schools. Gorman has won the three previous games, but Centennial has led in the fourth quarter of each.

“It comes down to free throws and a few possessions. Hopefully we can do that again and hang around,” Todd Allen said.

The twins have been on varsity since their freshman season, helping turn Centennial into a winner. They can cement their legacy with a win against powerhouse Gorman, which is looking for its fourth title in five years.

“Gorman is a great team,” Marcus Allen said. “We are going to come out and try to give it our all. Try to play great on the defensive end of the court and value every possession. Come in focused. We are pretty excited as a team for this opportunity.”

Tim Straghter led Canyon Springs with 23 points and Nelson scored 16, helping the Pioneers twice erase eight-point deficits in the third quarter and nearly advance to the championship game.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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