As soon as the basketball left Centennial’s Jade Thomas’ hands, her teammates were confident of the result.
“It was going in. I knew it would because it was Jade Thomas,” Centennial sophomore Daejah Phillips said.
The Thomas 3-pointer swished through the net to cap an epic comeback for the Bulldogs, helping them erase a 15-point fourth quarter deficit and force overtime in the class 4A state championship game at the Lawlor Events Center.
Centennial, using the momentum from its rally, scored the initial 11 points of overtime for a 74-65 victory and the program’s 10th all-time state championship. It’s won the past four titles.
This championship, though, will go down as one of the most memorable because of how it was won. Centennial needed to make three 3-pointers in the final 40 seconds to force overtime, receiving clutch shots from Phillips and senior sharpshooter Justice Ethridge.
One miss and the championship belongs to Liberty.
“We didn’t give up,” said Phillips, who finished with 12 points. “We didn’t rush. We had to calm down because we were playing for our fourth championship.”
Phillips drained a 3-pointer to open the overtime scoring and give Centennial its initial lead since the beginning of the game when it led 5-0.
Rae Burrell had 20 points and Dre’una Edwards added 16 for Liberty, which led 46-31 entering the fourth quarter. But the champs wouldn’t go down without a fight.
“I trust every one of them, one to 13,” Centennial coach Karen Weitz said. “I have faith in every one of them. The one thing I will say about our team, we are a great program. We run together year-round and we stick together year-round. Sometimes in situations like this it favors us a little bit.”
The UNLV commit Ethridge heated up down the stretch for Centennial with 14 points in the fourth quarter, capping her career with a fourth state championship.
When Centennial received the championship trophy, teammates put her on their shoulders for a photo.
“Justice picked it up and the (others) picked it up,” Weitz said.