When the Bishop Gorman boys basketball team started this season 1-2, the Gaels did their best Chicken Little impersonation.
“Everybody thought the sky was falling,” Gaels coach Grant Rice said.
Fast forward two months, and Gorman is no longer in disaster mode.
Junior guard Johnathan Loyd scored 21 points, and the Gaels held off host Palo Verde 60-55 on Friday night to capture the Sunset Region title in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
The Gaels (26-5), who lost to Cheyenne in the regional final last year, advance to the Class 4A state tournament that begins Thursday at Orleans Arena. Palo Verde (22-5) will play Sunrise Region runner-up Liberty at 6:45 p.m. Monday at Arbor View in the play-in game.
“We’ve come together as a team,” Rice said. “It hasn’t been the perfect season by any means, but guys believe now. Guys believe in their teammates.”
The Gaels won despite going the final 5:05 without a field goal. The Gaels made 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute and were 20 of 27 overall from the line in a game that saw 44 fouls called.
Senior Kylel Coleman added 12 points for Gorman, which also got key contributions from freshman Shabazz Muhammad (nine points, four rebounds) and junior Anson Winder (seven points, six boards).
“We promised the coaches two trophies,” said Loyd, who thrilled the Gorman faithful when he dived over the scorer’s table for a loose ball with less than a minute left. “One trophy down, now we have to get the next trophy.”
Senior D.J. Stennis had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Panthers. Junior Davion Pearson added nine points, while junior standout Moses Morgan played just four minutes in the second half due to foul trouble. He had seven points.
The Panthers fell behind 19-4 in the first quarter and spent the rest of the night trying to catch up. Palo Verde’s Delron Mims hit a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to cut the Gaels’ lead to 35-26, and Palo Verde eventually tied the score at 42-all with two minutes to go in the third on a bucket from Jamey Gream.
But Coleman had eight points in the fourth quarter, including Gorman’s final basket from the floor that put the Gaels up 50-44.
“There’s an old saying that it’s easy to come back, but it’s hard to come back and win,” Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. “We still have an opportunity to get to state. We have to regroup here, come out on Monday and hopefully live another day.”