Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer touch on each of the Southern Nevada teams heading to Reno for the state tournament — Bishop Gorman, Canyon Springs, Clark and Desert Pines. Gorman and Clark are the rightful favorites in their respective divisions, but could an upset be in store?
Darrell McCall will start at center Thursday for the Canyon Springs High basketball team in the state semifinals against Northern Nevada’s Spanish Springs at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno.
It’s just that at 6-foot-3, McCall isn’t the typical post player.
That’s just how Canyon Springs coach Freddie Banks likes it, tailoring his lineup to include mostly guards who quickly get up and down the court, proving to be the right formula in overwhelming the opposition. The Pioneers last week won their third Sunrise Regional championship in four seasons to earn a return trip to state.
Banks, the UNLV great, makes sure his team resembles those Rebel squads he shined on in the mid-1980s. It’s like Jerry Tarkanian is coaching the team.
“Everyone in my starting lineup is a guard. We get out and run, and play hard,” Banks said. “It’s a little bit of Tark’s offense. But I have been running and gunning my whole life, even when I was in the sixth grade. You can’t slow down when you have a bunch of athletes. There’s no way I’m slowing down these kids.”
Canyon Springs scored 106 points last week in the Sunset quarterfinals and 99 points in the semifinals. They are averaging 80 points per game, often resembling a track team in beating the other team down the court.
McCall, and others on the team, couldn't care less where they are in the lineup. It’s all about getting out in transition — and, of course, winning a championship.
“We're all family here with the same goal,” McCall said. “We come at you with five guards, and all of us handle the ball well. We can all shoot.”
Some feel Canyon Springs’ run-and-gun attack is enough for them to beat anyone, including nationally ranked and two-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman. Gorman plays Reno High in the other state semifinal, and both teams are expected to win convincingly to advance to Friday’s championship game.
While it’s easy to look ahead to a potential matchup with Gorman, Banks knows better. He won’t fall into the trap and makes sure his players won’t, either.
They were in the same spot last season, leading Centennial by five points in the state semifinals with less a minute remaining before blowing the lead. And three seasons ago when Canyon Springs won state, most expected them to meet Gorman in the finals. However, Gorman was upset by Bishop Manogue in the semifinals.
“A lot of folks are looking for that,” Banks said of a potential showdown with Gorman. “Don’t tell me that right now. We have another game to play first. We play one game at a time and (Gorman) isn’t our next game.”
Most of the nine seniors on the Canyon Springs roster were in the stands in 2011 when Canyon Springs won the championship. They raced onto the court together in celebration, making a pact that night to make sure their legacy included a state championship. They wanted to be the ones cutting down the nets.
This is their last chance. They’ve played together since their freshman year on the Canyon Springs junior varsity team, always being considered one of the most talented teams in town. Well, behind perennial power Gorman.
“Absolutely, they (Gorman) are the favorites to win,” senior guard Brandon Edmond said. “We’ve always been considered the underdog and that’s how we like it. Winning this tournament is a goal we set and have been working for (since) we were freshmen.”
Canyon Springs (24-4 overall) is led by senior guard Shaquile Carr, who didn’t finish the season last year after being ruled academically ineligible. Teaming with brothers Gerad and Jordan Davis, the trio led the Pioneers to an undefeated record in the Northeast League.
But it’s more than those three. It’s players such as McCall who is playing out of position that’s made the season a success.
All that’s left is to win two more games. And no matter which team Canyon Springs faces, don’t expect them to stop doing what’s gotten them this far.
“We hustle, run and get out on the fast break. We’re not going to let the other team get back on defense,” Edmond said.