Reno High guard Gigi Hascheff holds the mantra "everything happens for a reason" to her core.
For Hascheff and the rest of the Huskies, facing top-seeded Centennial in today's Division I state semifinals falls in line with that mantra.
"Right out of the chute, we're facing probably the best team," Reno coach Shane Foster said. "But you have to beat them at some point if you want to win the state championship. We're looking forward to it."
The game is a rematch from last year's 4A state semifinal in which the Huskies stunned the Bulldogs, 60-41 at Lawlor Events Center.
Hascheff was a staple in the upset, as she finished with 26 points. The senior is looking for an encore performance today at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
"As a senior and a team captain, I can't go down there and not give it my all because it's my last hurrah," she said. "You're going to get my best effort. Really for me, it's my last year. It means the world to me. It's not just words, but you're going to see that on that court."
A lot has changed for Reno since the win. Standout guards Shannon Gough and Sierra Sobrio graduated. And the nothing-to-lose mentality that carried the Huskies just short of 4A state championship was replaced by rock-hard confidence.
"It's just our year," Hascheff said. "You can see everybody wants it. You can tell that will to win is there. Our teamwork is really special this year and better than in the past."
The Bulldogs avenged their semifinals loss on Dec. 29, topping Reno 54-49 in Las Vegas. Centennial's frontcourt one-two punch of Breanna Workman and Jada Brown pounded the Huskies down low, scoring 12 and 11, respectively.
A far cry from Reno's duo of Mallory McGwire and Morgan McGwire, who sputtered in the game, combining for seven points. The taller but less experienced McGwire sisters will get a second go-around tonight. Winning the battle on the boards is the key, Foster said.
"That's where defensive pride comes in," Foster said. "You have to put bodies on them and know where they are. You have to have five people go to the glass. We can't rely on our three 6-footers to rebound everything. Our guards have to get in there and chip four or five rebounds each."
Luckily for Reno, the big-game atmosphere brings out their best.
"Every game should be the same wanting to win wise. But when it's the state tournament, all bets are off," Hascheff said. "You're going to get everyone's best effort. You're not in a tournament in Las Vegas, it's the state championship. It's going to be different."
With Reno riding a six-game win streak, an opening-round game is a pitch-perfect time to face the Bulldogs.
"We're prepared. We hit our climax at a really good point," Hascheff said. "Everyone is focused and in their groove. We couldn't ask for a better time to play them."