Friday, March 1, 2019 | 11:33 p.m.
Chance Michels lay near the Bishop Gorman High basket in pain and holding his forehead after taking an elbow to the face with less than two minutes to play in Friday’s state championship game against Clark at the Orleans Arena.
Michels, the lone senior contributor on a Gorman team of many bluechip underclassmen, was often the Gaels’ most underrated player, coaches say.
They rave about how he would put his body on the line to take a charge, guard the other team’s best player on the perimeter, or unselfishly pass to teammates instead of looking to fill the stat sheet.
That unselfishness was again on display in the last game of the season — the last game of his three-year varsity career. Michels had six points, five rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes, and Gorman prevailed 68-60 against Clark for an eighth straight state championship.
While Michels’ stats don’t jump off the scoresheet, they only tell half the story. What was most important is that when he was in the game, Gorman outscored Clark by 11 points.
“He was the ultimate team guy for his whole career. Chance did whatever we asked him,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said.
Big man Isaiah Cottrell, a top-50 recruit for the class of 2020, was again exceptional with 23 points on 9 of 11 shooting. Point guard Zaon Collins was equally impressive with 14 points, including a pair of 3-pointers late in the second quarter to help Gorman start to pull away.
It was a similar story all season. Cottrell, Collins, Noah Taitz, Will McClendon, and later in the season Mwani Wilkinson, were the main attractions as Gorman again went undefeated against in-state competition. Michels thrived doing the little things to help the team win.
“There are games where it looks like I didn’t do that much,” he said. “But when it comes down to it, I do what the team needs me to do: guard the best player, get rebounds and play out of position, if need be. If we get the win, it is all good.”
Michels battled shoulder problems in the second half of the season, which meant periodic suction-therapy treatments, and having his shoulders wrapped in tape on game day. Still, he didn’t hesitate putting his body on the line.
“We are really going to miss Chance. He has a been a great Bishop Gorman basketball player,” Rice said. “But obviously we have a bunch of guys coming back, so we are excited for the future.”
Gorman’s eighth straight championship is believed to be the longest active streak nationally. The fact that it came against Clark, the state’s unquestioned second-best program the past few seasons, wasn’t lost on Rice.
Clark nearly beat Gorman in the 2017 state championship game. Most games between the schools aren’t decided until the fourth quarter, with Gorman winning 11 of 12 games over the past three seasons.
“This one feels good because that Clark team is a really good team,” Rice said. “To beat them four times in a year, 11 times in three years, is quite an accomplishment, and I am pretty proud of that. That is a really good team.”
The Gaels will again be the favorites next season. Clark graduates Division I players in Antwon Jackson and Jalen Hill, who each scored 14 points in the loss. Gorman, meanwhile, returns mostly everyone — well except for Michels.
“We have had some close battles. It hasn’t been easy,” Rice said. “The state of Nevada has given us great competition. It has been fun, but it has been tough.”