Friday, Feb. 20, 2009 | 2:25 a.m.
It is amazing all that can go through a young ball player's head in four seconds.
Bishop Gorman junior John Loyd had promised his classmates a dunk all season long, but had yet to deliver.
So with the crowd exploding around him as he made a steal with four seconds left that would clinch his team's 70-68 Sunset Regional semifinal win over Cheyenne Thursday, he decided this was his chance. But after such an incredibly close game, he began to change his mind out of respect and think layup.
The result was an awkward half-dunk/half-layup that clanged harmlessly off the rim as the buzzer sounded to send the Gaels to the Sunset Regional championships where they will face Palo Verde Friday.
"My first thought was to go down and dunk," Loyd said. "I told everybody I would dunk at least one time this season. But then I thought, 'No, that's messed up.' And I ended up just missing the layup."
Gaels fans didn't seem too disappointed in Loyd's miss, considering he was the one that gave them the lead with 4.2 seconds remaining in the game. With the score all tied up at 68 and a minute remaining, the Gaels made the decision to hold the ball for what they hoped would be the final shot. Starting near mid-court with 10 seconds remaining, Loyd beat his man off the dribble before knocking down the go-ahead floater in traffic near the foul line.
"The first thing I was thinking was that I had to get past my man," Loyd said. "The second thing was that if anybody stepped up to me I had to look to my left to Czar [Robotham] because he was shooting so well. The third thing was that if nobody came I have to float it, keep my arm up, flick my wrist and it will go in."
The only thing that could have been better about Loyd's drive is if it had taken about four seconds longer. With so many offensive weapons, nobody was counting Cheyenne out with 4.2 still to play. After a timeout was called by each team, Demetric Williams received the ball on the in-bounds play and looked to turn up court, but was met by a Bishop Gorman double team. The ball came loose and ended up in Loyd's hands -- ending the Desert Shields' season.
"We were trying to get it down the court as fast as could," Williams said. "We had planned if they came with a double team for me to dish it to the open guy and if I got the lane, to go to the basket. But they came with a trap and ended up with the ball."
It was an exciting finish to a game that saw 10 lead changes and neither team lead by more than nine.
After going back-and-forth for three quarters, it was Cheyenne who took charge early in the fourth, going on a 10-0 run that had them ahead 66-61 with five minutes to play. Williams led the Desert Shields with 21 points including 12 in the second half. Junior Chris McCall added 18, while senior Elijah Johnson posted 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
"I know it's so cliche to say, but it's really a shame that someone had to lose," said Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice. "Cheyenne didn't deserve to lose and we didn't deserve to lose. We both just gave it our all. We'd go up then they'd go up. I'm just proud of our guys, especially the seniors. Czar hit some huge shots for us and Kylel Coleman really showed that he's one of the most athletic guys in the state."
Robotham finished with 12 points for the Gaels, including three shots from beyond the arc, all in the second half.
Coleman, who is known for his close relationship with Cheyenne's Johnson, may have been the true hero for Bishop Gorman.
After a disappointing performance in last year's loss to Cheyenne in the Regional finals, Coleman made up for it with a team-high 21 points and five assists. With his team trailing 66-68 with less than three minutes to play, Coleman picked off an in-bounds pass for an uncontested layup that kept the Desert Shields from making it a two-possession game.
"He didn't want to let us lose because of what happened last year, he thought he played horrible," Loyd said. "He put this game into his own hands and he said he wasn't going to let us lose from the beginning. He fought hard to get us back into the game. It was a special game for us because now he feels like nobody can get in his way."
The level of disappointment was obvious on the Cheyenne players' faces, who had been favored to make a run at a state championship all season long. Head coach Teral Fair also expressed his frustration with what he saw as a poor performance by the officiating crew.
"I thought it was the worst officiated game in the 12 years I've been in Las Vegas," Fair said. "I've never seen officials take a game away from the kids. It was the best game we've had all season long and we had five or six calls in the last minute of a playoff game. It was utterly ridiculous. They won't let kids decide the game and there ain't nothing else to talk about."
Both coaches had their issues with officiating throughout the game, as both benches received technical fouls. If the officiating was off, it had little effect on the free-throw battle. Bishop Gorman finished with 26 attempts from the line to Cheyenne's 25.
"You're not going to agree with every call," Rice said. "Both coaches voiced our opinions and we both got technical fouls actually. But the good thing about these officials was they listened to us and they still called what they thought was right. But you're not going to agree with every call, either way."
The Gaels will now face Palo Verde in a clash of the two No. 1 seeds from the western regions. The Panthers have yet to be tested in the playoffs, as they rolled over Durango in the semifinals 88-62.
"We saw them play today and obviously, they are unbelievable," Rice said. "Coach [Jermone] Riley is doing a great job with those guys, they're well coached. But you know what, we respect all our opponents and the rest of the way is going to be tough. There are several capable teams here in Vegas. We're excited to be where we're at right now, but hopefully we're not finished."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.