Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Feb. 18, 2013 | 9:05 p.m.
With the Centennial High basketball team trailing Valley Monday by 10 points midway through the second quarter of the state play-in game, and the state co-favorite Bulldogs desperate for a basket to change the momentum, several in the gym assumed a player with the last name Allen would be the one to step up.
And, twins Marcus and Malcolm Allen, the Stanford committed guards who are the area’s top two scorers, eventually took over the game.
But, at this junction of the game, the Bulldogs had help from an unlikely source.
Austin Turley, arguably the best all-around athlete at Centennial, buried a 3-pointer to stop the Valley rally with 4:15 to play in the half. Soon, the double-digit deficit was just four points at halftime.
Then, in the second half, the twins took over. Marcus Allen finished with 34 points, scoring 11 in the third quarter when Centennial took the lead for good and helping the Bulldogs advance to Thursday’s state tournament with a 82-69 win.
After the game, several in the gym at Del Sol were buzzing about the high-flying performance of the Allens. In the Centennial locker room, however, the focus wasn’t on one player. It was about a team of 12 players making it one step closer to their goal of winning the state title.
That, after all, is why Turley is on the team.
He was also the quarterback on the Centennial High football team, but has severe tendonitis in both knees that often become so painful it hurts to sleep. If Centennial, which lost in the Sunset Regional football game, would have won the state championship on the gridiron, Turley might have considered not playing basketball.
But passing up a chance to play alongside the Allen twins and contribute on a run to the state tournament was too good to pass on. Centennial plays Canyon Springs Thursday in the state semifinals at the Orleans Arena.
“Turley, he wasn’t going to play this year because his knees are so bad,” said Centennial coach Todd Allen, who is not related to the twins. “He only wanted to come back if he had the chance to get a ring. (We) just have great senior leadership. They refuse to lose. I am telling you, it’s just a good group of kids.”
Valley scored on five of its initial six possessions and made four 3-pointers in the opening quarter to take an early lead. They continued the hot-shooting in the second quarter to lead 34-24 with 4:35 to play in the half after a 3-point play from Cameron Burton.
Turley, who is just 6-foot and often guards much taller players in the post, didn’t hesitate when he got the open look to bury the momentum-changing 3-pointer. Some players would defer to the Allen twins in a tough situation, but Turley knows it’s going to take significant contributions from everyone to win the state title.
“A lot of people notice Marcus and Malcolm because they score the most points, but our whole team deserves this,” said Turley, who scored seven first-half points to finish with nine. “We kept playing defense, getting the loose ball and doing all of the little things that matter.”
While efforts from the likes of Turley, or point guard Khalil Thompson, are a must for Centennial to run the table, it doesn’t hurt having two of the best players in the state.
Malcolm Allen scored 21 points as the twins accounted for 67 percent of the Centennial offense. Centennial outscored Valley 24-8 in the third quarter with Marcus Allen scoring eight straight points in rally. In the blink of an eye, the four-point halftime deficit turned into a 62-50 lead after third quarters.
“That is just senior leadership right there from Marcus,” Todd Allen said. “(The twins) have been doing that all year for us. They just refuse to lose, you know. We have a bunch of guys who have bought in. Man, oh man, I can’t believe this.”
Centennial has lost three times to defending state champion Bishop Gorman this year, but has led in the fourth quarter of each contest and had a legitimate chance to win the past two. They’ll likely face Gorman, which plays Hug High of Reno Thursday in the other semifinal game, again Friday in the state championship game. If the past three games are any indication, anything can happen.
And, if Centennial is the last team standing, you won’t hear Turley complaining about those knees.
“I’ve worked my whole life to get a state ring. That’s the only reason why I’m here,” Turley said. “Stats don’t matter, individuals don’t matter. It’s about our team and getting a ring.”