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July 28, 2015

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high school basketball:

Margin of victory in Gorman’s fourth state title in five years is surprising

In what was expected to be a close game, powerhouse Gaels frustrate Centennial with great zone defense in lopsided win

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Bishop Gorman’s Stephen Zimmerman drives past Centennial’s Eddie Davis during their Division I state championship game Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 at the Orleans. Gorman won 69-43.

State Championship - Gorman vs. Centennial

Bishop Gorman's Robert Stanley (2) jumps on a court side table to celebrate their 69-43 Division I state championship win over Centennial Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 at the Orleans. Launch slideshow »
Prep Sports Now

Signing off for the year with state tournament talk

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer work through their final podcast of the school year by discussing the state basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena this weekend.

Nobody expected an outcome this lopsided. Not even the players in the game.

Bishop Gorman High senior guard Trey Kennedy knew his team was comfortably ahead Friday against Centennial in the Division-I high school state basketball game at the Orleans Arena, but wasn’t closely following the score. Then, he looked up.

Gorman, which in three previous meetings this year against Centennial trailed late in the fourth quarter, was leading by more than 30 points.

Not only did Gorman win its fourth state championship in five years, the Gaels convincingly beat an opponent that was expected to give its fits in a 69-43 victory.

“I didn’t know until I looked up. The coaches were telling us, ‘Keep playing, keep playing with this urgency,’” Kennedy said. “I looked up and were up 30. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I didn’t even realize it.”

Gorman limited Centennial’s one-two punch of Stanford-committed twins Marcus and Malcolm in check with a suffocating zone defense. Malcolm Allen finished with six points, while Marcus Allen had 26 — 17 came in the fourth quarter when Gorman was running out the clock — and made just 10-of-25 shots.

Centennial scored 13 first-half points and only managed five points in the third-quarter. That’s when Gorman went on a 15-0 run to lead 51-18 entering the final eight minutes, getting contributions from virtually everyone on the court.

“Of course I was surprised. I never expected it to be 30 points,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “In each of the (previous) games, we had close to a 10 point lead at one point and they would always battle back.

“I knew we had a chance to get up on them. I know some other teams got up on them in first quarter, Canyon Springs and Valley,” Rice continued. “We really thought we would have a chance, but I never thought we would maintain it like that and extend the lead.”

Senior Rashad Muhammad, who had scored more than 23 points in each of Gorman’s four playoffs games and was arguably its best player down the stretch, only played a few minutes in the first quarter before leaving with a leg injury. Marcus Allen scored Centennial’s initial six points and it led 6-4 when Muhammad limped to the sideline to exit the game.

But Gorman didn’t flinch and proceeded to score the next six points to take the lead for good, including the first in a trio of 3-pointers from guard Noah Robotham.

Malcolm Allen opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer for Centennial to cut the deficit to three points, giving an indication the game was following a similar script of past Gorman-Centennial showdowns. Those went back-and-forth and weren’t decided until the final possession.

That wasn’t the case in the state championship game.

Gorman scored the next 15 points to grab a 26-9 lead, including eight points from sophomore Chase Jeter, Muhammad’s replacement. The outburst was the result of Gorman’s zone defense frustrating Centennial.

Rice credits longtime assistant Mike Wright for the defensive scheme. This was Rice’s sixth state title in 12 years as the Gorman coach and Wright has been by his side every step of the way. Minutes before the game started Friday, Wright suggested Gorman play a 1-3-1 zone defense.

The result was likely the worst game of the season for the Allen twins — the duo have shined all season, scoring at will on virtually everyone opponent.

“It was defensive intensity. We switched up the zone a little bit. We were tough,” Rice said.

Sophomore center Stephen Zimmerman led the defensive charge. A five-star recruit, he finished with a triple-double of 18 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. He often would block a shot, then beat Centennial players down the court for a dunk.

Last year, Gorman beat Reno’s Hug High 96-51 for the state championship with national player of the year Shabazz Muhammad, Rashad’s older brother, scoring 36 points on 15-of-17 shooting. Zimmerman’s put on a similar show, only missing one shot on eight attempts.

“We just got a couple of stops, and built off them and kept it going,” Zimmerman said.

Kennedy had 15 points and five assists, and is credited with doing significant damage on the perimeter in the zone defense. Robotham scored 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and freshman Chase Noma’aea had six points.

“This is way you want to go out. You want to go out on top,” Kennedy said.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or ray.brewer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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