Las Vegas (24-6): The Wildcats came from behind to earn their No. 1 seed with a 66-62 victory against Valley in the Sunrise Region Tournament finals on Saturday. Martel Sheldon came off the bench to score 12 points, including two key 3-pointers down the stretch. Tremmel Darden, an all-division player, scored 21 points in the final and 59 over three games.
Valley (17-8): The Vikings, state champs in 1998, showed versatility in reaching the final. Chris Green scored 28 points in a 79-57 opening round win over Chaparral. Sam Jackson, an All-Sunrise selection, scored 16 and Chris Sloan had 14 in a 66-51 semifinal win over Green Valley. The Vikings' defense hounded Green Valley into 21 turnovers and 34 percent shooting.
Durango (22-7): The Trail Blazers were seeded third out of the power-laden Southwest Division, but they wound up winning the tournament with a come-from-behind 68-66 win over Bishop Gorman on Saturday. Senior Jamaal Brimmer (6-foot-1, guard) is Sunset Player of the Year, but Martrel Johnson (6-3, 215), a sophomore post player, emerged big-time in the tournament and scored 24 points in the final. Johnson had 16 points and eight rebounds in the fourth quarter as Durango rallied from 10 points down in the final 5:38 - and his putback on Brimmer's missed free throw broke a 66-66 tie with less than six seconds remaining. Johnson also scored 20 of his game-high 28 points in the second half of Durango's impressive 75-58 semifinal win over Western. Durango won back-to-back state titles under coach Al La Rocque in 1995-96.
Bishop Gorman (23-5): The Gaels were ranked No. 1 in Las Vegas for much of the season with a veteran cast led by three juniors: Josh (6-9) Carter Paul Bania (6-6)and guard Dinard Taylor (5-10). The Gaels have a point to prove after missing the playoffs entirely last season - they fell from first to fifth in league in the final week of the regular season. Five players scored in double figures, and the Gaels shot 37-for-50 from the free-throw line in their semifinal win over Clark. Western, Gorman and Durango finished the regular season 1-2-3 in both the Southwest Division and in Las Vegas. They were ranked as three of the state's top four 4A teams overall - yet only two advanced to state.
Centennial (30-0): Amazingly, the Bulldogs are undefeated in the school's first year of existence and rallied from a first-half deficit to beat Cimarron-Memorial 50-42 in the region finals on Saturday. Point guard Tenecia Jackson (5-5, Jr.) was Northwest Division Player of the Year and averaged 16 points per game during the regular season, but the Bulldogs have shown balance so far in the postseason. Freshman Rachael Schein scored 21 and Darci Sandoval 20 in a 78-34 win over Western, and Jenna Palmer scored 16 in a 68-43 semifinal win. Schein had 14 points, nine rebounds and nine steals in the final.
Cimarron-Memorial (16-7): Nikki Richards scored 18, including seven of her team's eight overtime points, in a 48-47 overtime upset of Bishop Gorman (1999 state runner-up) in the semifinals. Richards drove the length of the floor at the end of regulation to put in a score-tying layup.
Silverado (29-6): The Skyhawks won the Southern zone title in 1999, only to fall to Carson in the opening round at state. They're back - led by Southeast Division Player of the Year Jayme Connors (17.2 points, 8.9 rebounds per game). Connors and Wanda Walton scored 16 points each in Silverado's 62-50 win against Las Vegas in the Sunrise final on Saturday. Nikki Hitchens, a two-time all-division pick, also scored 14. The key to the win, however, was limiting high-scoring Jesmere Kirby to 14 points.
Las Vegas (22-5): Jesmere Kirby was the city's leading scorer this season (28.7 points per game) and the Northeast Division Player of the Year. Kirby scored 29 points in the Wildcats' opening-round and semifinal tournament wins. The offense runs through Kirby, who scored 25 points in a holiday tournament win over the Grizzlies in December. Melissa Cejas had 21 points and 16 rebounds in Las Vegas' semifinal win over Green Valley.
Galena (26-6): The Grizzlies lost back-to-back games to end the zone tournament in Carson City. The good news now is they open against Silverado, a team they beat in December, and the North's No. 4 has won at state three times in the last four years. Junior Kellie Burton is the leading scorer, but the Grizzlies are deep both up front and in the backcourt. They'll bring big players like Whitney Williams, Janelle Mack, Kirsten Drury and Burton at you, but they also have scrappy guards like Annie Baxter, Joanna Hixon and Jayleen Chen.
Carson (28-6): After qualifying for state as the North's No. 4 seed in each of the last four years, the Senators now come in as a No. 2 after losing to Reno in the zone finals on Saturday, 49-38. Fourth-year starters Pam Williams and Alyson Thurman are the leaders, but others have stepped forward of late. Junior forward Meghan Gradert and sophomore point guard Erin Stieber both came up big in the Senators' overtime win over Galena in the semifinals. Guard Davina Carter is a third-year varsity veteran. Even though Carson qualified for state as a No. 4 seed four straight years, the Senators won in the opening round in 1996, 1997 and in 1999. Carson's last girls state championship came in 1990.
Reno (23-7): The Huskies reign as Northern 4A zone champs for the second time in three years after beating Carson on Saturday, 49-38. Now they would like to bring back a state title, which would be all the sweeter after they missed a state berth in 1999 by virtue of an opening-round loss at zone. Melissa Padgett (6-1, Sr.), bound for the University of San Diego, is a four-year starter at Reno. Meghann Hackstaff is another four-year varsity starter, although she transferred from Wooster to Reno for her senior year. Megan Nunn, who had six assists against Carson on Saturday, was selected as an all-state guard by Nevada Prep as a freshman last season. Depth is another strength for the Huskies.
McQueen (18-10): The Lancers won four straight state championships behind twin towers Kate Smith (now starring for Nevada) and Courtney Moore (playing for Oregon). This team is entirely different, a scrappy bunch that starts senior Kate Miller, juniors Kae Blunt, Jill Bentley and Michelle Perry, and freshman Cristi Crofts. The Lancers came on to finish second in Division I and has beaten first-place Galena in two straight games, including a 45-44 verdict in the zone third-place game on Saturday.
South Tahoe (26-4): Since 1975, South Tahoe stands alone as the only Northern team to bring home a state large schools boys state basketball title (1987 and 1992). The Vikings finished second in Division II (Reno is the last team to beat them), but they came from behind in the fourth quarter to beat McQueen in the semifinals, 41-38, and then knocked off three-time defending zone champ Galena in the finals on Saturday, 52-43. The Vikings are led by flashy guard John Giannoni, whom Carson coach Tom Andreasen calls the best player in his league. South Tahoe can also hurt you with any one of a number of other players, including Travis McCollum, Bob Larmore, Tim Sprinkles or Matt Williams.
Galena (20-11): How many experts out there expected Galena to reach the zone finals for the fourth year in a row? Though young, the Grizzlies achieved their feat through teamwork and discipline, keeping a game at the tempo they like - as was the case in their 35-34 upset of Reno in the zone semifinals. Senior Mike Atkinson is the leader, and sophomore Joe Heaton is a scoring threat.
Reno (23-7): The Huskies are young and talented, led by guard Alex Gamboa and forward David Woods (both were first-team all-conference picks as sophomores last season), as well as 6-9 freshman David Padgett. Ryan Kane and Nate Rosenbloom round out a talented starting quintet.
McQueen (17-9): The Lancers showed they would be a force to reckoned with back in December when they posted a season-opening win against South Tahoe. They proved their toughness in the final weekend of the season with a win at Elko, one that secured first place in Division I. This is another young team that features a pair of junior guards - Chris Carr and 6-5 Karl Aaker. Aaker scored 20 in the semifinals against South Tahoe, a game the Lancers led by 10 points in the third quarter.