Published Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011 | 10:34 p.m.
Updated Friday, Feb. 25, 2011 | 1:33 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer preview this weekend's state basketball tournament. They disagree on whether Eldorado or Sierra Vista will win the play-in game, but see the same outcome regardless.
Some of their eyes were swollen with tears streaming down their faces. Others’ eyes were blood-red and bulging, oozing with anger.
A wide range of emotions existed on the faces of Bishop Gorman basketball players as they exited the locker room at the Orleans Arena on Thursday night, but one feeling was universal — disbelief.
The Gaels will not capture their third consecutive state championship this year. After establishing itself as one of the top programs in the country, Gorman did not march through the state tournament with ease like many expected.
Gorman lost its first game to an in-state opponent in more than two years in the semifinals Thursday night. Bishop Manogue 45, Bishop Gorman 44.
“It’s tough,” junior Ben Carter said. “No one has much to say.”
Gorman had its chances to eke out a victory against Reno’s Manogue, the Northern region champion. With seven seconds left, the Gaels had the ball for one final possession.
“We missed a quick and easy one, but we had a good attempt,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “Shabazz had his hands on the ball and he didn’t put it in, either. We had two chances on it.”
It was a frustrating end to the night for Muhammad, one of the top juniors in the nation. Muhammad scored a season-low nine points on 2-for-7 shooting and never established any consistency.
Manogue appeared to do an admirable job of limiting Muhammad’s opportunities, but Rice said Muhammad was also dealing with an injury.
“He hasn’t practiced the last two days,” Rice said. “His ankle is really bothering him. He just wasn’t anywhere close to himself tonight, obviously.”
Despite playing against a team with multiple Division-I athletes, Manogue senior Niles Lujan was the best player on the floor down the stretch. He scored 11 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter
“I was in the zone, I guess,” Lujan said. “We needed to score and we weren’t getting open looks. We couldn’t get anything inside because they are much bigger than us, so we had to come up with something. Today it was me.”
Lujan drained an NBA-range three-pointer with three minutes remaining to tie the game at 40. Gorman roared back and held a 44-41 lead after Rosco Allen made a layup with 49 seconds left.
But Manogue’s Zachery McElroy scored on the next possession to cut it to a one-point game. Ignoring Rice’s pleas to hold onto the ball and let the clock run down, the Gaels went inside to Ronnie Stanley who missed a short jumper with less than 20 seconds remaining.
Ethan Dillard raced down the court and converted a layup to make the score 45-44. Gorman called a timeout before running its ill-fated final play.
“We didn’t execute,” said Carter, who led Gorman with 13 points and 10 rebounds. “That’s what it comes down to. We didn’t run our stuff. We didn’t go to our strengths.”
When Gorman overcame a shaky start to beat Manogue 65-52 in last year’s semifinals, it was seen as nothing more than a blip on its quest to repeat as state champions. To Manogue, that game meant much more.
Lujan said it made the Miners realize they could become the best team in Nevada.
“Our goal from the moment we lost was to come back here and win,” Lujan said. “It’s just a great feeling. It’s irreplaceable.”