Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 | 10:45 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer glance over both the Sunrise and Sunset regional playoff brackets. Will there be any surprises or teams other than Bishop Gorman, Canyon Springs and Foothill representing Southern Nevada next week in Reno?
Shaquile Carr delivered on his promise to lead the Canyon Springs High basketball team back to the state tournament.
Last year, when the Pioneers blew a five-point lead in the last minute of the state semifinals to Centennial, Carr sat helplessly on the end of the bench, missing the playoffs after being declared academically ineligible. In the locker room that night, he made a promise.
“He told me after the season was over last year, ‘Coach, we are going back,’” Canyon Springs coach Freddie Banks said. “I said, ‘Shaq are you sure?’ He said, ‘Coach, I got you.’ It takes a big man to say something like that.”
It seemed only fitting that Carr was the difference-maker today in Canyon Springs’ 64-55 victory against Las Vegas High in the Sunrise Regional championship game, scoring a game-high 25 points in leading Canyon Springs to the title and its third state tournament appearance in the past four seasons.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Canyon Springs players raced off the bench to midcourt to meet fans in starting a wild celebration. There were hugs, dancing, chanting, smiles and plenty of camera-phone photos.
Carr, with tears in his eyes, dished out hugs and repeatedly declared: “We’re going to Reno; we’re going to Reno." The four-team state tournament begins Thursday at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno. Canyon Springs plays the loser of Saturday’s Northern Region championship game between Reno and Spanish Springs.
Carr, who has been a mainstay in the Canyon Springs lineup since his sophomore year, has long been one of the Las Vegas area’s best players. But, because of shortcomings in the classroom, he needed to again prove himself this season.
He’s done that and more, never letting the criticism hinder his performance.
Each time Carr went to the free throw line against Las Vegas High, the Wildcats’ student cheering section chanted something about his poor grades. What they fail to realize is he’s also finishing strong in the classroom and committed to play at UTEP.
And, in a true sign of maturity, Carr didn’t let the chants bother him. He made free throw after free throw, failing to acknowledge the distraction.
“They can say all the stuff they want. At the end of the day, we got that W,” Carr said.
Carr’s 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter extended Canyon Springs’ two-point lead to a 53-48 advantage, putting Las Vegas in a big-time hole with its top players — Ray Smith and Patrick Savoy Jr. — having fouled out.
Both teams battled foul trouble to key players. In the second quarter, brothers Gerad and Jordan Davis went to the Canyon Springs bench with two fouls apiece, allowing Las Vegas to limit the Pioneers to just six second-quarter points in taking a 30-28 halftime lead.
It would have been worse if not for Carr. He scored five of the Canyon Springs points in the quarter, realizing it was his turn to return the favor to the Davis brothers.
He became friends with Gerad Davis as a toddler, right around the time both were learning to walk. They later joined organized sports together and have been teammates ever since.
Jordan Davis, a year younger, has long considered Carr a mentor, being promoted last year from the junior varsity team to take Carr’s place and shining to help Canyon Springs win the Sunrise in his absence.
“That’s my brother,” Gerad Davis said. “Blood couldn’t make us any closer. I told him I would always fight for him no matter what. That’s what we did.”
Smith, a top-50 recruit nationally for the class of 2015, led Las Vegas with 20 points. But he went to the bench early in the third quarter with four fouls, giving Canyon Springs a window to make a scoring run and lead 48-40 entering the final eight minutes.
Las Vegas scored the initial seven points of the fourth quarter to trim the deficit to one point. Then, Smith fouled out, joining Savoy on the Wildcats bench.
That was all Carr and Co. needed to pull away.
“Man, this was so personal for me,” Carr said. “A lot of people doubted me from last year because I messed up. I just had to prove them wrong with this win. I feel like I got it done. Now it is time to win state with my team.”
Gerad Davis scored 12 points for Canyon Springs, Jordan Davis supplied 10 and Darrell McCall contributed nine points.