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October 16, 2021

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Gorman coach adds to legacy with another state basketball victory

Bishop Gorman-Palo Verde Basketball

Justin M. Bowen

Bishop Gorman’s Johnathan Loyd, shown attempting a 3-pointer in the Sunset Regional title game, finished his four-year career with 103 victories. The final win was against Canyon Springs on Feb. 23, 2010, in the state title game.

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Bishop Gorman High basketball coach Grant Rice is running out of fingers to wear his championship rings. On Friday night, the coach earned another piece for his jewelry collection.

The Gaels’ Taylor Spencer had a game-high 19 points and sophomore Shabazz Muhammad added 14 points in leading Gorman to a 69-48 victory against Canyon Springs in the 4A state championship game at Lawlor Events Center in Reno. It was Rice’s fourth title in nine years at the helm of the program —not bad for someone who is just 35 years old.

“I knew there was a great tradition at Gorman,” Rice said. “When I was lucky enough to get the job here, I wanted to continue that tradition and make the alumni proud.”

He’s done more than continuing the tradition. He’s turned the program into a national power — the Gaels are ranked No. 13 by USA Today — in becoming one of the Nevada’s most successful and respected coaches.

“He is good at keeping us disciplined,” Spencer said. “He kept letting us know that all of the hard work pays off after you win like today.”

The championships Rice has won are more than any other large-school classification coach in state history, according to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association record book. This was the 13th state title in Gorman school history, including 2002, 2005 and 2009 under Rice.

His four titles rank fourth all-time in any classification, one behind Gary Batchelor of Overton’s Moapa Valley High and Don Anhder of Alamo’s Pahranagat Valley. Kirk Brotherson of Virgin Valley in Mesquite has coached 12 teams to championships.

Rice played college basketball at UNLV and coached Gorman’s junior varsity team for one season before being elevated to the top spot.

“Obviously, only being 26 years old and getting the job without much experience was a great opportunity,” Rice said. “I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time.”

Gorman became the first team to repeat as large-school champions since Durango in 1995 and 1996. Last year, the Gaels erased a 10-point fourth quarter deficit against Palo Verde to win the title by one point.

Gorman only led 26-22 at halftime against Canyon Springs but scored 29 points in the third quarter in opening a 20-point lead and never looking back.

“We kind of struggled offensively in the first half,” Rice said. “But even though we weren’t clicking offensively, we were still in pretty good shape. We started attacking the basket instead of settling for jump shots and got a few steals and made some buckets in transition.”

Spencer scored half of his 19 points on the fast break, including a handful of dunks that put an exclamation point on the victory.

“He almost ripped the rim down on one of those,” Rice said.

Anson Winder, a BYU-signee, had seven points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Gaels. Senior point guard Johnathan Loyd had nine points and five assists to cap his four-year varsity career with 103 wins.

Several of Gorman’s seniors — Loyd, Spencer, Xavier Grimble and Alex Turner — celebrated their third state title in 12 months. In addition to the consecutive basketball crowns, the foursome also led the Gaels to the state football title three months ago.

“This is a special group of seniors,” Loyd said. “Nobody has accomplished what we did. It just goes to show that we are winners and we did whatever it took to win.”

Gorman’s girls team also won the large-school state title on Friday at Lawlor Events Center, capturing their fourth championship in five years with an 82-59 victory against Reed High of Reno.

Aaryn Ellenberg, an Oklahoma-signee and one of 24 McDonald’s All-Americans nationwide, had a game-high 21 points and six assists for Gorman, including 5 of 8 on 3-pointers. She had 31 points on Thursday in a state semifinal victory against Reno High, making 5 of 7 from beyond the three-point arc.

Chelsie Pitt added 18 points for the Gaels against Reed, while Amber Lane and April Rivers each had 12 points.

Gorman lost in last year’s title game to rival Centennial by one point, snapping a streak of three straight championships. The Gaels avenged the loss to Centennial in this year’s Sunset Region title game, picking up a 75-64 victory to advance to the state tournament.

Gorman’s boys and girls teams combined to post a 57-7 record. Neither team lost to a Nevada opponent and both squads picked up several wins at respected national tournaments.

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