Expectations for Bishop Gorman and Green Valley couldn’t have been much different to start the boys basketball season.
Gorman was not only the consensus No. 1 team in the state, but held a No. 1 national ranking according to some polls. Green Valley wasn’t even a popular pick to win the Southeast League.
But both teams are now just two victories from the Class 4A state championship.
Gorman (26-4) opens the state tournament against Douglas (20-10) at 4:40 p.m. Thursday at UNR’s Lawlor Events Center, with Green Valley (17-12) playing Hug (23-3) in the other semifinal at 8.
The title game is set for 8 p.m. Friday.
“Definitely I would say total opposites,” Green Valley coach Lorenzo Jarvis said about early expectations for the two local teams. “That’s what makes an incredible playoffs. Once you get in there, it’s a whole new season. You just have to play the way you have to play and let everything else take care of itself.”
While just making the state tournament is quite an accomplishment for a Gators team that was 4-11 at one point, Gorman doesn’t have the luxury of being content with just making the trip north.
The Gaels feature three players who have signed with Division I schools, and a fourth — Shabazz Muhammad — who is considered the top college prospect in the senior class.
And all that talent didn’t lead to a state title last season when Bishop Manogue shocked the Gaels in the state semifinals.
“This team, we haven’t won anything as a team, really,” senior point guard Gio Guzman said. “All the hype and stuff with our rankings, this and that, but we haven’t accomplished anything yet. So we’re just looking forward to winning something and ending the year on a good note.”
The 6-foot-6-inch Muhammad, who averages 29.1 points and 10.0 rebounds, would make most teams a contender by himself. When you add a front line that includes 6-9 Rosco Allen (Stanford), 6-9 Demetris Morant (UNLV) and 6-8 Ben Carter (Oregon), the Gaels seem nearly impossible to stop.
And the loss to Manogue last season has only given Gorman’s senior class more motivation.
“There’s been pressure from day one this year,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “I don’t think there’s any more this week than there has been all year. These seniors have put a lot on themselves this year after not quite getting it done last year. I think we’re ready to go.”
Guzman said everything starts on the defensive end for the Gaels, who jumped on their three Sunset Region tournament opponents early.
“It really gets us going,” Guzman said of the defense. “Getting early buckets to Shabazz obviously gets him going and focused on the game. That’s pretty much it, just getting out and doing what we’re supposed to do, (and) we’ll bring a championship home.”
While the Gators continue to be an afterthought, they have shown themselves to be a capable team down the stretch, winning 13 of 14 games and rolling to the Sunrise Region crown.
“To me, I saw something in this team, and I said if we didn’t get to state, it would be a failure this year,” Jarvis said. “People probably looked at me and said I was crazy when we were losing games early in the year.”
The opportunity to play at state has Jarvis and his players excited. And it’s an excitement that even an eight-hour bus ride won’t quell.
“I think we’ll take a long bike ride to be able to compete for a state title,” Jarvis said.
“It’s a beautiful situation. They worked so hard, and to be able to compete for a championship is an incredible feeling. They don’t come along that often in life, and when they do, you have to enjoy it and embrace it and live for that moment. It’s something that these kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”