Volcano Vista is headed back to the Pit.
The girls basketball team wasn’t its usual dominant self early on but pulled away for a 66-33 victory over No. 8 Centennial Tuesday night at Volcano Vista in the quarterfinals of the State Basketball Tournament.
The top-seeded Hawks (27-0) are returning to the Pit for the first time since winning the state championship on a miraculous, half-court shot by Natalia Chavez that beat the buzzer in overtime last May. The team has now won 40 straight games.
“It’s super exciting,” Volcano Vista head coach Lisa Villareal said. “I mean, you heard the energy tonight. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The first half was chippy as the Hawks were called for 13 fouls and Centennial shot 14 free throws, making nine. A Volcano Vista fan holding a baby was asked to leave by a referee after the fan said “stop blowing the whistle.” It is unclear what the baby said.
“The energy is high and when you start adding fouls like that, it just gets everybody even more energized,” Villareal said. “I just think that we had to settle down, play our game and worry more about possessions rather than what was happening.”
Despite all the fouls, Volcano Vista led 31-19 at halftime and extended its lead to 46-25 at the end of the third quarter before closing out Centennial and moving on to the semifinals.
Senior guard Jaelyn Bates scored 17 points, including an acrobatic layup in the fourth quarter that made the crowd erupt.
“Yeah, that was phenomenal,” Villareal said. “It better be a top-10 play. That was great.”
Kennedy Brown added 10 points and Taejhuan Hill had 14 for Volcano Vista.
While the Hawks still have work to do and at least one more game to play, this was the last time Villareal will coach her six seniors in their home gym.
“It’s bittersweet,” Villareal said. “I love having them but it’s coming to an end, and it’s emotional.”
Volcano Vista plays No. 4 Farmington at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Pit. A win Thursday will put the Hawks in the 5A final for the third straight year.