Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 | 1 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer work through their final podcast of the school year by discussing the state basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena this weekend.
At this junction of the high school basketball season in Nevada, there typically isn’t much debate as to which team will win the state championship.
Rather, it’s trying to figure out the opponent perennial power Bishop Gorman High will beat in the title game.
That is far from the case this year.
When the Division I tournament begins Thursday at the Orleans Arena and the defending state champion Gaels take the floor playing for their fourth title in the last five years, you can easily argue each of the other three teams — Hug High of Reno, and Las Vegas area schools Canyon Springs and Centennial — has a chance to win.
And while Gorman is considered the favorite, the Gaels learned a valuable lesson two years ago in a similar spot. They play at 4:40 p.m. against Northern Region champ Hug, looking to avoid a repeat result of what some people call the biggest upset in recent tournament history during the 2011 event.
Gorman, despite having roster loaded with elite college recruits and beating the No. 2 team in the nation earlier in the month, was upset by Bishop Manogue of Reno in the semifinals. Bishop Manogue was overmatched and undersized at every position yet pulled off an upset for the ages.
Some say if the game would have been played 100 times, Gorman would have won 99 times. But they lost. And the loss still serves as a reminder to the players involved in that game to not take anything for granted.
“It is hard not to think about it,” said Noah Robotham, Gorman’s junior point guard who missed the would-be game-winning shot against Bishop Manogue at the buzzer.“It still haunts us — at least me. It is a salty feeling. You just regroup and try to work hard and get better. You really can’t take back a loss, but you can work hard to try to dominate them.”
Robotham and senior Rashad Muhammad each played in the setback two years ago. They each also played in last year’s title game in which Gorman beat Hug 96-51. It would be easy to assume the result would be similar in a rematch against Hug, but you won’t hear anyone on the Gorman team say those words.
With the loss two years ago still tough to stomach, Gorman players know anything can happen once the ball is tipped in the state tournament.
“Everything just went wrong,” said Muhammad, whose been nearly unstoppable the past three weeks, averaging 26 points per game in three playoff contests. “We were so cocky coming into the game. These guys from Reno, we didn’t know who they were, and they came out and smacked us in the mouth. We learned to not overlook anybody.”
If Gorman gets past Hug, its potential opponent in the championship game would be arguably the toughest foe its faced in a title game.
In the second semifinal game at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sunrise Region champion Canyon Springs plays Sunset runner-up Centennial in what has the makings of a classic.
With by UNLV legend Freddie Banks as its coach, Canyon Springs has won seven of its last eight games and has the best young talent in the event.
Centennial has been the biggest threat to Gorman this year, losing three times to the Gaels in games where it led in the fourth quarter.
Led by Stanford-committed twins Marcus and Malcolm Allen — arguably the top two players in town — Centennial lost by just two points to Gorman last week in the Sunset championship game. And two weeks ago, Gorman prevailed in double overtime after Centennial blew a two-possession lead with less than a minute to play .
Some fans would love to see Gorman and Centennial play for the title — well, except for 2011 state champion Canyon Springs.
The Pioneers have just two seniors on their roster but have peaked late in the season behind brothers Jared and Jordan Davis. Jordan Davis, a sophomore, has been on the varsity team just weeks but led Canyon Springs with 27 points in a Sunrise Region championship win against Valley.
Canyon Springs coach Freddie Banks is confident his team will be the last one standing Friday night.
“Anybody has a chance to win it this year, not just Gorman,” Banks said. “Hopefully my kids can come out on top this year.”