special to the sun / Garrett Valenzuela
Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 | 12:01 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer come to you from the Las Vegas Sun's podcast studio for one final time this basketball season. They dissect the chances of seeing an all-Las Vegas state championship game between Bishop Gorman and Green Valley.
- Green Valley nearly erases 16-point fourth-quarter deficit, falls in state semis by two points
- Gorman scores game’s first 24 points, uses stellar effort from Shabazz Muhammad in state semifinal win
- Husband and wife coaching duo never stopped believing
- Gorman, Shabazz Muhammad out to avenge loss in last year’s state tournament
- Practicing for the state tournament, fighting wind, cold and chain-link nets
- Durrell McDonald unstoppable in leading Green Valley past Foothill for Sunrise title
- Devan Kohn’s 34 points helps Green Valley upset Valley in Sunrise semifinals
- State semifinal picks
- High school basketball section
RENO — Talk about cementing your legacy.
That’s exactly what Shabazz Muhammad, the nation’s top-ranked high school basketball player, and his Bishop Gorman High teammates did Friday in the 4A state championship against Reno’s Hug High at the Lawlor Events Center.
His highlight-reel-style dunks one after another, a smooth-shooting stroke from the outside and a dominating performance rarely witnessed in Nevada from a high school player will surely be talked about for years to come. The same can be said for Gorman’s star-studded roster.
The senior wing Muhammad put on a show in his finale, scoring 30 points in the first half to finish with 36 points on 15-of-17 shooting to lead the Gaels to a 96-51 victory for their third state championship in four years.
“The first half was quite a display,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “Shabazz will be the first to say, he gets the spotlight because of his scoring, his highlight dunks and his rankings, but we don’t win this championship without all these guys. We don’t even come close.”
Muhammad outscored Hug 30-25 in the first half, only missing one shot in a streak of scoring that included a trio of nothing-but-net 3-pointers during a two-minute stretch in the second quarter and several dunks typically reserved for a dunking contest. On consecutive possessions, he converted a windmill and then a 360-degree dunk — which earned him a technical foul for celebrating.
“I got up pretty good on that,” Muhammad said of the 360-degree dunk. “I had four dunks in a row. I usually don’t have celebrations, but I had to that time and got a technical.”
The players on the Hug bench even appeared to be in awe of the scoring display, often smiling in amazement after a Muhammad dunk. Following the game, Muhammad was bombarded with picture and autograph requests from fans and teammates.
He even autographed his game shoes and gave them to a fan — a teenager from Reno whom he had never met. While most of the autograph hounds got Muhammad’s signature on their game ticket, Fernando Rodarte, 13, had his all-white Air Jordans signed.
“They are going to be worth something one day,” he said. Muhammad's autograph on a basketball already sells on eBay for $149.
Muhammad, however, was far from a one-player show. Gorman’s starting lineup has four players who will play at major Division I colleges next year, including forward Ben Carter (Oregon) who finished with six points, seven rebounds, eight assists and three blocked shots.
Add in Rosco Allen (Stanford), Demetris Morant (UNLV), junior Rashad Muhammad (Shabazz’s brother) and some argue this year’s Gorman team ranks as one of the best in state history — if not the best ever.
“I think it is (the best in state history),” Muhammad said. “Our team was really good. We had (players sized at) 6-9, 6-6, 6-7, our team was basically an NBA team with length. It was just a good situation for us. We came out tonight and brought it one last time.”
Gorman, which opened its state semifinal game Thursday against Douglas High on a 24-0 scoring run, led 29-9 after the first quarter against Hug. At halftime, they increased the lead to 59-25 — about 3.6 points per minute.
“This group of seniors, if you go back in history, it will be tough to find a group as talented as this group,” Rice said. “Hopefully a lot of people in the state of Nevada remember this as one of the best high school teams they’ve seen.”
Gorman opened the third quarter on a 17-2 scoring run to put the game more out of reach. Rice, who carried 18 players on his playoff roster, brought in his second string with about three minutes to play in the third quarter. By the end of the game, Muhammad, Allen, Carter, Morant and starting point guard Gio Guzman had already taken the tape off their ankles and were posing for championship photos on the bench.
There is no question that Muhammad, Carter and Allen — often called the “Big 3” — are elite players and top 100 national recruits. They just didn’t act like superstars around teammates.
When each Gorman player was called to center court to pick up their championship medals, Carter made sure to be the first to offer congratulations. Muhammad spent time joking around with his teammates’ younger siblings.
Several affiliated with the program have memories of Muhammad that have nothing to do with the rare feat of completing a 360-degree dunk in a game — which Muhammad had done twice before.
“He is a great teammate. Just a phenomenal guy,” said Nick Gianakoulias, a senior guard. “He always looks out for us and is a great leader. In practice, he (plays) like this all of the time. This is nothing new.”
While the Gaels were hardly challenged in winning the title — they were victorious in 22 of their last 23 games and won their five playoff games by an average of 33 points — that might not be the case next winter with the graduation of several veteran players.
All five of the Gaels’ starters were seniors, including Guzman who finished with eight assists. Sixth-man Ronnie Stanley recorded eight rebounds.
Rashad Muhammad, who had 14 first-half points, is also a major Division I prospect and will be Gorman’s main scoring threat next year. Sophomore Noah Robotham has been a contributor his first two years and will also see added responsibility.
“The thing about Gorman people don’t understand is that we buy into the system,” Robotham said. “That is why we had the success we’ve had. We are already itching to get back into the gym.”