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February 21, 2019

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Noah Taitz breaks slump at right time, leads Gorman to win against Findlay Prep

LVSUN HSFB Media Day 2018 Super 7

Christopher DeVargas

Noah Taitz of Bisop Gorman High School takes a portrait during the Las Vegas Sun’s Media Day at Red Rock Resort and Casino on Oct. 30, 2018.

Prep Sports Now

Showcases

Ray Brewer and Case Keefer dive into Saturday's Big City Showdown and Monday's West Coast Elite MLK Classic. They pick several of the matchups, and break down the two big games Brewer attended over the last week.

Noah Taitz is the best shooter on the Bishop Gorman High basketball team. Arguably, he's the best in Nevada.

But Taitz on Saturday wasn’t great — at least through three quarters.

He was 1 for 11 entering the fourth quarter of the Big City Showdown against Findlay Prep at the South Point, only managing a first-quarter layup in the game that has become one of the can’t-miss events of the local prep season.

Taitz’s fortunes quickly changed in the fourth quarter, when he drilled a pair of 3-pointers in the initial minutes of the final frame to help Gorman to a 59-55 victory and bragging rights between the two schools with national brands.

“Finally made one,” said Taitz, who to his credit, didn’t stop shooting. “I wasn’t going to let (the missed shots) take me out of my game.”

Gorman used eight players in the win. Each, seemingly, made an exceptional play in the second half.

Take junior backup Braden Lamar, who started the fourth quarter and scored his lone points on a drive to the basket. A few possessions later, he found a wide-open Taitz for his slump-busting jumper.

“I always pride myself on doing the little things, the stuff other people don’t like to do — boxing out, playing physical and going for loose ball,” Lamar said. “I would rather get wins than get stats. Whatever it takes, I will do.”

Mwani Wilkinson, another junior reserve, was instant offense off the bench in scoring 10 points.

So while four-star junior post player Isaiah Cottrell had a game-high 17 points, including eight straight to open the second half to earn MVP honors, and sophomore point guard Zaon Collins was again brilliant with 10 assists, this Gorman win wasn’t all about its top players.

“We got those (bench players) good minutes and all those guys did a good job,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “Mwani gave us a lift. He is so physically gifted.”

Chance Michels, the lone senior in the Gorman rotation, had the game’s most significant defensive play. With Gorman ahead by three points in the final seconds, he came up with a steal near midcourt to seal the victory. He also had a pair of baskets in the back-and-forth final quarter.

The game with Findlay Prep is always one of the best-attended of the season, and rightfully so. Each has a lineup of top college recruits, including players UNLV is courting.

But for Rice, the game’s primary benefit never changes. His team will be playing for another state championship next month, meaning a closely contested game against a high-quality opponent provides invaluable experience for later in the season.

And for Taitz, it shows that his coach and teammates never lost confidence in his ability.

“Even if he doesn’t have a great game, we still want him shooting the ball in crunch time,” Rice said.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21