Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012 | midnight
Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer discuss the high school basketball playoffs, disagreeing on both brackets. Case likes Canyon Springs to win the Sunrise Regional; Ray think they lose in the first round.
Bishop Gorman allotted no time for nostalgia or celebration after Friday’s 102-83 victory over Palo Verde in the Sunset Regional Championship.
The six seniors who have made the Gaels the most dynamic local hoops team in recent memory all soared in their final high school game in Las Vegas.
They nonchalantly exited court right after shaking hands with the Panthers, however, almost as if nothing meaningful happened.
“It’s one step in the process,” Shabazz Muhammad said. “The regional is fine, but we want to win state.”
The Gaels are headed to the state tournament after winning their fourth straight regional title. Gorman travels to Reno next weekend in search of what they were denied of last year — a Nevada state championship.
The team’s senior centerpieces — Muhammad, Ben Carter, Rosco Allen, Demetris Morant, Ronnie Stanley and Gio Guzman — looked ready to take the trip north immediately after dismantling Palo Verde.
“We got this far last year and we didn’t get it done,” Carter said. “You didn’t really see us celebrate like other teams might do. It’s a step on the way to state.”
Carter had one of his best games this season in posting 18 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. He hit the first two shots of the evening to key a 10-0 opening run for Gorman.
“I was surprised we jumped out that quickly, to be honest,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “I thought Palo was going to be really strong in that first quarter.”
Although Gorman led by 14 at the end of the first quarter, it encountered some adversity from there. Muhammad rarely misses a moment of significant action, but was forced to sit for the final five minutes of the first half after picking up three early fouls.
Carter also committed his third foul two minutes after Muhammad. But the Gaels were able to keep their composure and actually increase their lead with the two stars watching from the sidelines.
Allen — who finished with 12 points, six rebounds and six assists — and Stanley — seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks — took absolute control before halftime with help from some complementary pieces off the bench.
“We’ve got good players on this team,” Carter said. “I’m completely confident with whomever coach brings in.”
In limited action, Muhammad still managed a team-high 28 points with eight rebounds. He was 16-for-17 from the free-throw line, where the majority of the game seemed to take place.
Gorman finished a mesmerizing 41-for-49 from the charity stripe, while Palo Verde went 32-for-44. But the Panthers shot dreadfully from the free-throw line in the first half, missing 10 of 17.
It was the kind of staggering mistake that they didn’t make in playoff upsets over Clark and Centennial over this week.
“At the end of the day, there are a lot of teams that want to be here,” Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. “They want to be able to play at 7 in the championship game. There are a lot of teams who have never experienced that.”
“If the worst thing in life is missing a free-throw or a 3-pointer, then you’ve got a good life. I think we’re OK.”
The Panthers kept the game respectable by virtue of one player. Junior guard Eris Winder twisted, turned and bombed his way to 39 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Playing most of the second half with four fouls, Winder turned in an effort that could only be regarded as awe-inspiring even in a losing effort.
“Eris had a great year, an unbelievable playoff run,” Riley said. “He just matured so much as a player and a person. We know how much he’s capable of. He’s very capable of doing that.”
The difference is, Gorman has a list of players capable of going off in a similar manner. It’s an intimidating predicament for whichever teams meet Gorman at state next week.
Until then, even if they didn’t show it, the Gaels will ever so slightly enjoy the Sunset trophy they earned Friday night.
“People think we have it easy over there, but we worked harder than everybody else,” Carter said, “so it’s a good feeling.”