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August 20, 2014

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Prep Basketball:

Bishop Gorman makes long-awaited return to State tournament

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Jummel Hidrosollo / Special to the Home News

The Bishop Gorman Gaels celebrate winning the boys 4A Sunset Regional trophy with their win against Palo Verde High School on Friday.

Boys Sunset Regional Championships

Palo Verde point guard D.J. Stennis attempts to grab hold of the ball as Bishop Gorman guard Kylel Coleman steals during the boys Sunset Regional championship game at Palo Verde High School on Friday. Launch slideshow »

Boys Sunset Regional semifinals: Bishop Gorman vs. Cheyenne

Shabazz Muhammad goes against Jaylen Henry (34) and Chris McCall (10) of Cheyenne for a rebound as Bishop Gorman and Cheyenne faced off in the Sunset Regional semifinals at Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas Thursday night.  Bishop Gorman pulled out a victory over Cheyenne 70-68. Launch slideshow »
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Bishop Gorman has sat out the last two state tournaments in boys basketball, and for the Gaels, that's two too many.

One of Southern Nevada's most storied programs, Gorman stamped its ticket to the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association's version of the Final Four by winning the Sunset Region championship, 60-55, on Friday against Palo Verde.

After winning state titles in 2002 and 2005 and reaching the semifinals in 2006, the Gaels are eager for a return trip to the state tournament.

"Going to Gorman, people expect certain things from us. We're always supposed to be one of the top teams," junior point guard John Loyd said. "We've had great players in this program, so if we're not in the state tournament, people think we had a bad season and failed."

Gorman will face Reno's Hug High in the state semifinal game Thursday at the Orleans Arena. Meanwhile, Palo Verde won its play-in game against Sunrise Region runner-up Liberty on Monday, earning the Panthers a spot in the other semifinal against Eldorado, the Sunrise Region champion.

"For Gorman to be here, it shouldn't be a surprise," guarl Kylel Coleman said. "We haven't been to state in a few years though, so I'm happy that we're here, and I can be on the team that can hopefully win it all. That is the reason I came to Gorman is to get a ring."

Gorman is taking momentum into the state tournament after its performance during the region tournament. The Gaels initially crushed Centennial, 74-56, on Feb. 17 before winning a nail-biter against Cheyenne, 70-68, on Feb. 19. Both Cheyenne and Palo Verde, the top two seeds from the Northwest Division, took a 12-2 league record into the Sunset tournament.

Gorman enjoyed an early 15-2 run against Palo Verde, the host school, and never lost its lead in the final region game.

"They saw us play the game before against Cheyenne, so when we came out we just sensed they were scared so we went hard," Coleman said. "It was a big confidence builder, so now we're just ready. We don't feel like anyone can beat us, but we're not taking anyone for granted."

Gorman coach Grant Rice said his team isn't satisfied with just reaching the state tournament.

"Sometimes as a coach you have to calm your kids down after a win like the one against Palo Verde, but I don't think I saw one kid celebrating after the game, which is neat to see," Rice said. "They realize it was nice to win the Sunset Regional but we're still hoping for more success this week."

Loyd added the Gaels are playing their best basketball of the season.

"We knocked off Cheyenne and Palo — those were the top two teams for most of the year," he said. "We were ranked sixth or seventh and nobody took much mind of us. So to knock those two out, I think we made a statement going into the state playoffs."

Despite losing the Sunset Region championship, Palo Verde is confident in its chances at state after topping Liberty, 68-63, in the play-in game. During seasons in which Southern Nevada hosts the state tournament, the Sunrise and Sunset region runner-ups face each other for the fourth and final state playoff spot.

The Panthers trailed Liberty by three points at halftime but rallied down the stretch to keep their season alive.

"We knew this game was going to be a battle," Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. "Anything can happen at state."

Palo Verde already defeated Eldorado, its first-round opponent at state, 103-92, in the regular season.

Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].

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