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Prep Basketball:

Bishop Gorman’s fast start sinks Palo Verde

Boys' Sunset Regional Championship

Jummel Hidrosollo / Special to the Home News

Bishop Gorman forward Shabazz Muhammad finds an open player as Palo Verde forward Moses Morgan blocks during the boys Sunset Regional championship game at Palo Verde High School on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009.

Boys Sunset Regional Championships

Palo Verde point guard D.J. Stennis attempts to grab hold of the ball as Bishop Gorman guard Kylel Coleman steals during the boys Sunset Regional championship game at Palo Verde High School on Friday. Launch slideshow »
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Bishop Gorman earned their way to the Nevada State Tournament with a 60-55 win over Palo Verde Friday night for the Sunset Regional championship.

The visiting Gaels opened the game on a 15-2 run and never looked back. Bishop Gorman never trailed the Panthers Friday.

After watching the Panthers cruise through opponents on their way to the Sunset Regional Final, the hot start by Bishop Gorman shocked everyone in the gym, including the Gaels themselves.

"When we came out 15-2, my first thought was - They're human," said Bishop Gorman guard John Loyd. "They blew out Durango who we played close with this season. So, my first thought was they're not the superstars we thought they were. But then when they came back at us, we knew it was a ball game."

The Gaels rode their hot start through the first half, going into intermission with a 35-26 lead over the No. 1 team in the Northwest. Palo Verde committed 13 turnovers in the first half and were out-rebounded 13-18.

Bishop Gorman may have continued to roll were it not for a timeout after the 15-2 start that seemed to settle down the Panthers.

"I told them, 'You've got to relax,'" said Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley. "'You can't feel up tight, they can't know you feel up tight. You have to have confidence.' I wanted to call that timeout to calm down our guys and let them know we were still in a position to win."

The Panthers responded by opening the third quarter on a 6-0 run that helped them tie the game at one point and enter the fourth quarter trailing by four.

After trading baskets most of the way through the fourth, the Gaels were able to put the game away with a strong performance at the free throw line down the stretch. Bishop Gorman ended the game on a 7-of-8 run in the final two minutes while the Panthers finished on a 3-of-8 skid.

"It's tough, as a senior I take the responsibility for this loss," said Palo Verde guard D.J. Stennis, who missed two free throws in the final minute. "I missed some big free throws, so that's my fault."

Palo Verde missed the presence of their leading scorer, Moses Morgan, who was plagued by foul trouble throughout the entire game. The junior took just six shots and finished with seven points before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.

With Morgan gone, Stennis did all he could to keep the offense going, finishing with a team-high 17 points. Junior Andrew Topham helped out by scoring all of his eight points in the second half.

"It was a little difficult playing without Moses," said Riley. "We didn't get the rebounding out of him that we usually get. But the guys that came in for him did a great job fighting to keep us in the game."

Loyd led the Gaels in scoring, finishing with 19 points. Senior guard Kylel Coleman scored eight of his 12 in the second half and forward Anson Winder posted seven points and seven rebounds.

Unlike previous playoff games, the final wasn't an elimination game, as Palo Verde will have a chance to earn a spot in the State Tournament with a win over Liberty in a play-in game on Monday. It was still huge for the Gales however, giving them a Regional Championship and a much-appreciated weekend off.

"We told the kids that if we win this game we're off for the weekend, if we lose, we've got early practice tomorrow," said Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice. "At this stage in the season the last thing the guys and the coaches want to do is practice. I was happy with getting the victory, especially since Palo never gave up. A few jump shots fall here and there and it could have been a different outcome."

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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