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High school basketball:

Stanley’s steals key Gorman girls’ trip to championship game

Updated Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 | 11:45 p.m.

Prep Sports Now

Signing off for the year with state tournament talk

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer work through their final podcast of the school year by discussing the state basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena this weekend.

Bishop Gorman's Raychel Stanley doesn't look or play like a freshman.

She's 6-foot-1 and moves well between the blocks. She also understands that tight games are decided not on the offensive end, but rather on defense.

Stanley grabbed back-to-back steals that led to two baskets to help the Gaels to a 51-48 victory over Liberty in the Division I girls basketball state semifinals at the Orleans Arena.

"We needed points, and the only way to get points is to play defense," Stanley said. "That's what we needed to do was step up."

Stanley scored 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Tonishia Childress led the way for Gorman with 23 points, including 10 in the second quarter.

Childress' play will garner much of the attention. She carried the Gaels offensively — whether by scoring or creating for her teammates — in the first half. She scored 15 points in the first-half alone, accounting for 60 percent of her team's points in the first 16 minutes.

"She's our engine. She's our heartbeat," Gorman coach Sheryl Krmpotich said of her senior point guard. "She'll find a way. That's the best part of T. She's a seasoned point guard who wants to win."

But Childress' memorable outing may have ended up being a footnote had it not been for Stanley's defense in the fourth quarter, after Liberty's defense found a way to stall the Gaels.

Down 42-41 midway through the fourth quarter, Stanley grabbed her first steal and threw an outlet pass to April Rivers. Rivers stopped at the free-throw line and made a basket, giving Gorman the lead once again. On the following play, Stanley again got her hands on the ball on defense, this time throwing it to Childress who dribbled straight to the basket. Childress' layup extended Gorman's lead to four, prompting Liberty to burn a timeout with 3:24 remaining.

Stanley was also a force offensively in the final quarter, scoring seven of her points. She navigated through the fourth quarter without picking up her fifth foul, another sign of her growing maturity.

"When she stays out of foul trouble, we're a better team," Krmpotich said. "She creates a lot of havoc (in the paint). ... She understands the game. She's able to read things very well, and getting her hand on the pass was her anticipating things."

Once the Gaels got the lead, they never let up, and Childress was allowed to go back to work. She milked clock with her ball handling, weaving through the defense. The Patriots were unable to get a steal, prompting them to start fouling with a little more than a minute to play.

It didn't make a difference, however, as the Gaels nailed their free throws en route to their first state championship berth since 2010 — the year they won it all.

While much of the credit will go to the seniors — Childress and Rivers — Childress added that it was the underclassmen who played just as big of a role.

"This really means something for the young girls and helps us (seniors) accomplish this goal," said Childress, who added this was a great opportunity for the seven underclassmen to experience winning.

Gorman will play Northern Region champion Reno at 6 p.m. Friday at the Orleans Arena for the state championship. Reno scored 22 third-quarter points Thursday in the semifinals against Centennial to take the lead for good in a 53-44 victory. It's the second straight year Centennial has lost to Reno in the semifinals.

Sydney Clark scored 18, while Paris Stranther added 12 to lead Liberty, which last week won the Sunrise Region for the second time in three seasons.

Paul Delos Santos can be reached at 990-2416 or [email protected]. Follow Paul on Twitter at twitter.com/pauliedelos.

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