Bishop Gorman basketball players, from left, Charles O’Bannon Jr., Christian Popoola and Jamal Bey.
Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 | 6:45 p.m.
The Bishop Gorman basketball team cruised into the state championship game with an 89-60 defeat of Reno High in the semifinal tonight.
The blowout allowed star players like Chuck O’Bannon Jr. and Jamal Bey to rest on the bench, while freshman guard Noah Taitz stole the spotlight.
Taitz was lights out from behind the 3-point arc and scored 16 first half points to lead the Gaels to a 47-20 lead at halftime.
“He’s a big-time freshman player and he has a great future,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “He has kind of showed glimpses of that this year and it all came out in that first half. He’s got a big future of basketball and he’s going to score a lot of points in his basketball career.”
Taitz finished with a team-high 19 points and made 3-of-6 from behind the arc.
“I was excited to come out here and just try to have fun,” Taitz said. “I think that’s when I play best, when I just have a good time. My coaches are always telling me to stay aggressive, so I just try to go out there and make it happen.”
Bishop Gorman started slowly, leading only 8-6 after three minutes of play and Rice quickly called a timeout.
“I just wasn’t happy with our defensive intensity,” Rice said. “I didn’t like the look on the guys’ faces because it looked like they were cruising out there the first few minutes.”
The Gaels switched to a full-court press and overwhelmed the Huskies. Reno turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, leading to an 18-2 run by Bishop Gorman.
“We turned it on there in the first quarter and we know what we can do when we play hard,” Rice said. “It’s just a matter of getting all five guys on the same page at the same time.”
Christian Popoola Jr. distributed the ball well, finishing with nine points and 10 assists. Jamal Bey, who was the only Gael to score in double figures other than Taitz, finished with 13 points and three rebounds.
As a team the Gaels connected on 11 3-pointers, just one short of the 4A state tournament record held by Las Vegas High (1988) and Chaparral (1991).
“We were feeling it today,” Taitz said. “We got a good warm-up before the game, stayed focus and we were just knocking them down.”
Bishop Gorman cleared the bench in the second half, with 18 players getting into the game and 12 of them scoring.
“Once we got a little lead on Reno late in the first quarter, we wanted to put them away but we wanted to settle down a little bit and make sure we were healthy going into tomorrow night,” Rice said.
The Gaels await the winner of tonight’s semifinal between Clark and Coronado. Bishop Gorman beat Coronado in last year’s state championship and has faced Clark three times already this season.
“It should be a battle tonight,” Rice said. “Either way it’s a great matchup.”
The state title game tips off at 8:10 p.m. Friday night at the Cox Pavilion. Bishop Gorman will be trying for its sixth straight, and 19th overall, state championship.
“It’s only my freshman year,” Taitz said, “but I’m just trying to help keep the legacy going.”