Friday, Feb. 17, 2012 | 10:53 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer discuss the high school basketball playoffs, disagreeing on both brackets. Case likes Canyon Springs to win the Sunrise Regional; Ray think they lose in the first round.
It’s time to remove the "underdog" label when describing the Green Valley High basketball team.
The Gators, after all, are one of four teams still playing in the state’s large-school classification.
Durrell McDonald poured in 32 points Friday in the Sunrise Regional championship game against host Foothill, and Devan Kohn added 21 points and 12 rebounds in leading the Gators to a 70-63 victory and a spot in next week’s state tournament in Reno.
“We had a message this year — it was win state or bust for our whole season,” Green Valley coach Lorenzo Jarvis said. “I didn’t care how slow we started out. That is what our motto was all year. We said it every day, ‘state or bust,’ and these kids followed through on their dream.”
Green Valley sputtered early in the season, losing seven of their initial 10 games in a slow start that could have spelled disaster. But the players never wavered in their confidence and finally pieced it together late in the season, winning 13 of their last 14 games.
That includes Friday’s victory against Foothill, using a dominating performance from McDonald — the Gators’ best player and a DePaul commit — in the biggest game of the season. The guard had 18 points in the first half, making several big-time plays in helping Green Valley climb out of a seven-point first quarter deficit.
Green Valley went on an 11-0 run late in the second quarter to take a 38-31 lead and never trail again to cap an amazing turnaround to the season.
In late January, the Gators still had a losing record. Now, they are making travel plays to Reno.
“They key was maintaining our composure, just staying into the game and not getting down about being down,” McDonald said. “I just felt as long as I maintain my game and stayed in it, this game is ours.”
Jarvis is always quick to credit several on his roster for contributing to a victory, saying no one player is more important than the next. The 6-foot-2 McDonald might be the exception — at least Friday. “He was that leader tonight. That is what your MVP is supposed to do. He stepped up,” Jarvis said.
McDonald was the state high-jump champion at Green Valley during his sophomore season before leaving the area for his junior season to play in Mississippi — he helped Piney Woods School win the state title. But his heart was always at Green Valley and he returned for his final season.
“I had faith in my team from the time I got here,” McDonald said. “I felt like this whole team could take over and this is what we did.”
Brannon Cresanto had 15 points to lead Foothill, including a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter in cutting the Falcons’ deficit to 52-48. But Green Valley scored the next seven points to punch its ticket to the state tournament. The Gators at 8 p.m. next Thursday play Northern Region champion (Hug and Douglas highs Saturday play for the title) in the state semifinals at Lawlor Events Center on the Nevada-Reno campus.
“I will be the underdog all year long. We embrace that,” Jarvis said. “We want people to doubt us. I believe in this team. This team leaves it on the floor.”