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Holy Hoops: Nevada's two large private Catholic schools clash in state semifinal showdown
by Dan Eckles
Feb 23, 2011 | 1562 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Bishop Manogue boys basketball coach Bill Ballinger talks with Miners players Niles Lujan (left) and Brennan Hogan at Tuesday's practice.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Bishop Manogue boys basketball coach Bill Ballinger talks with Miners players Niles Lujan (left) and Brennan Hogan at Tuesday's practice.
Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas has long been known as the premiere boys prep basketball program in the Silver State. Not much has changed this winter as the two-time defending 4A champion Gaels are once again the favorite to take home the state's top prize.

Bishop Gorman sits 25-5 on the season and is riding a 12-game winning streak. The Gaels have not lost to a Nevada foe all season, with the exception of Findlay Prep, a private prep school that is not a member of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.

So Gorman's resume is impressive, but its opponent in tonight's 4A state semifinal, Bishop Manogue of Reno, won't be intimidated.

"I don't think fear is going to be a factor," Bishop Manogue coach Bill Ballinger said. "We're not going down to make a showing and see how close we can keep it. We're going down there to win a basketball game."

Gorman and Manogue (24-5) will play the second boys semifinal tonight, tipping off at 8 p.m. at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Sierra Vista and Canyon Springs play in the other semifinal, set for 4 p.m.

The state's two large private Catholic schools also met in the state semis last year in Reno, where Gorman took a 65-52 win. Gorman was the heavy favorite in that one, too, but Manogue roared out to a quick 12-2 lead to open the game before Gorman woke up. The margin was still four points one minute into the fourth quarter and still single digits with two minutes to go.

No in-state foe has played Gorman to a single-digit game this winter, but Gaels coach Grant Rice remembers last year's state semifinal against Manogue and knows what the Miners are all about.

"Just like last year, I think they're a quality, quality team," Rice said. "They play as hard as anybody we've seen all year. They play a quick style and are a very confident team. We know they'll come down here and play hard."

Both teams have played tough nonconference schedules. Gorman traveled to high-profile preseason tournaments in Portland, Ore. and Ft. Myers, Fla. The Gaels also played single games against St. Patrick of New Jersey and Findlay Prep.

Manogue played in a Las Vegas tournament and in a Seattle tournament over Christmas break and also picked up single games against Findlay and Buchanon of Clovis, Calif.

"The goal this year was to schedule the toughest games we possibly could," Rice said. "We had some tough battles in early December and mid-December that we came up a little short in, but it helped us. It was good for us. But looking at Bishop Manogue's schedule, they played a tough schedule, too. I know they'll come in and give it 100 percent. They're definitely going to compete."

Manogue will be undersized when the two teams actually do compete on the hardwood tonight. Gorman boasts six players 6-foot 4-inches or taller. Manogue has two. Ballinger admits that is a concern.

"They are big and they can all play basketball," he said. "Gorman may be better than it's ever been and they are bigger than they've ever been. With that said, the fact we like to run is good. We'll have to play that way too. We need to play to our strengths and get good outside looks because we're not going to be able to get much inside. Hopefully, we can wear them out."

Rice knows his club has a size advantage, and he plans to exploit that. But he also knows being bigger doesn't always mean being better on the scoreboard at the end of the night.

"Last year we were bigger than them as well but they kept it close," Rice said. "One of our big goals is to win the rebounding battle and that will also be our mindset tomorrow. We do have some guys with length and size. That's always an advantage.

"With the way they shoot the ball — they have three guys that can really shoot it — we need to hold them to one and done. That's a goal of ours."

Manogue coaches know their Miners are the underdogs, but they also know upsets happen. Ballinger makes no bones about what his team must do to pull off what many could consider to be a shocking win.

"We have to shoot the ball really well and we have to rebound," he said. "We have to play good defense and make them work for things. We can't let them get comfortable and play catch. When you're defending kids on the average four to six inches taller at every position, you have to come up with something that you think can disrupt them.

"We're going to have to shoot it, run and get out and go, basic basketball, at least the way we play basic basketball. We're going to have to do what we do better than we ever have. And I think we can."

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