Class 5A Iowa Girls State Basketball Semifinals
Johnston 42, Ankeny Centennial 35

Aaliyah Riley was at her best when it mattered the most and now she and her Johnston teammates are headed back to the Class 5A championship game.

Riley scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half, freshman Jenica Lewis scored 15 and the defending state champs shut down Ankeny Centennial in the fourth quarter en route to a 42-35 victory that started the state tournament’s semifinal round.

The second-seeded Dragons relied on their rebounding and defense to survive 28 percent shooting and will go for another title at 6 p.m. Friday. It will be the fourth straight appearance in the finals for Johnston, which won the championship in 2020 and finished second in 2021 before winning again last year.

Riley, a 5-foot-8 junior with smooth ball-handling skills, drove for back-to-back layups late in the third quarter to break a tie at 30 and put the Dragons ahead for good. Johnston led 34-33 at the end of the quarter, then held Centennial to one basket in the fourth quarter while pulling away.

Riley sank three free throws to help Johnston extend the lead to 38-35, then made her most impressive move of the day after rebounding a Centennial miss. She swept past her defender with a crossover dribble and stutter step at the top of the key, drove down the left side of the lane and dropped in a layup that all but clinched the victory, putting the Dragons up 40-35.

Johnston’s Aili Tanke blocked a shot moments later and Lewis loped in for a layup to finish it off, sending the Dragons into Friday night’s game with a 24-1 record.

Tanke, a junior who has committed to Iowa State, finished with six points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Johnston outrebounded the Jaguars 40-25 and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive. The Jaguars held Centennial to 32.6 percent shooting for the game.

Jaeden Pratt led Centennial with 10 points, Kennedy White scored seven and Mya Crawford had six. Centennial, the 2016 state champion, finishes 18-7 with three of those losses to Johnston. The Dragons won the regular-season games 46-40 and 66-59.