A fourth consecutive region title was really just a means to an end for Bishop Gorman’s boys basketball team, which has its sights on loftier goals.
That doesn’t mean the Gaels weren’t justifiably proud to add another trophy to their case with a 102-83 victory over Palo Verde in the Class 4A Sunset Region championship game Friday night at Desert Oasis.
“It definitely doesn’t get old,” coach Grant Rice said. “It’s a good feeling These guys had a lot of pressure on them and they worked really hard this year. I’m happy the guys didn’t lose focus.
“With the talent we do have, we know there’s high expectations. I was really happy with the way we stayed grounded and stayed focused the last month of the season.”
Bishop Gorman (26-4) advanced to the state tournament at UNR’s Lawlor Events Center, getting a chance to avenge its loss in the state semifinals last year. The Gaels will play the Northern Region runner-up at 4:40 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s one step in the process. We want to win state, The regional’s fine, but we want to win state,” said senior Shabazz Muhammad, who scored 28 points, hitting 16 of 17 free-throw attempts. “Last year was a disappointment. We want to come out and not be cocky or anything. We want to be humble and try to win the state title.”
Senior Ben Carter, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, said the region title symbolizes the time and energy the Gaels put in during the offseason.
“It shows how hard we work. We work nonstop,” he said. “We work hard at Gorman. People think we have it easy or whatever, but no, we work harder than anybody else. It’s definitely a good feeling.”
The Gaels scored the first 10 points and raced to a 26-12 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“We talked in the locker room about really coming out strong. We wanted to set the tone right from the start,” Rice said. “We knew Palo after a big win last night would really be ready to play, so I was happy with the effort to start the game. I was surprised we jumped out that quickly to be honest. I thought Palo would have a real strong first quarter.”
The game turned sloppy, with the teams combining to attempting 92 free throws and whistles halting play seemingly every few seconds.
Palo Verde (19-6) was never really in the game, but didn’t let Gorman make it a runaway, largely because of junior guard Eris Winder. He scored 22 of his game-high 39 points in the fourth quarter as the Panthers pulled as close as 15 points in the final minutes.
“We knew we were going to get punched, so we talked about taking the punch and trying to punch back harder,” Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. “We knew they were going to get lobs and dunks, and the athleticism and size they have is ridiculous, but we wanted to still continue to compete to the end and I think our guys responded well. ... They were up 25 at one point, but we had enough pride to fight back.”
Demetris Morant had 14 points for Gorman, which made 41 of 49 free throws. Darryl Gaynor scored 21 for Palo Verde, which hit 32 of 43 at the line.