RENO — Desert Pines boys basketball coach Mike Uzan has won plenty in 21 years of coaching. He has eight region championships and three Class 3A state titles to show for it.
But there’s one thing missing from his mantle: the Class 4A state championship.
The Jaguars cruised to a 72-50 win over Durango in the Class 4A state semifinals Thursday at Lawlor Events Center and will play for the 4A title for the first time in school history. They will meet eight-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman at 9:10 p.m. Friday.
Uzan and Desert Pines won 3A state championships in 2013, 2017 and 2018. But this is a little different.
“We coach kids, and our kids believe in what we do,” Uzan said. “If our kids believe in what we do, and our parents believe in what we do and everybody believes in what we do, that’s what makes it go.”
The Jaguars (21-9) qualified for the 4A state tournament last season in their first year playing in the classification, but lost to Clark in the quarterfinals. But the majority of the rotation returned, including Uzan’s son, Milos, a star sophomore point guard, Georgia football recruit Darnell Washington and junior swingman Dayshawn Wiley. And junior forward Anthony Swift was eligible this season after transferring from Durango
Milos Uzan controlled the pace Thursday, and the Jaguars’ size and length disrupted the Trailblazers’ rhythm. He finished with 24 points, and Wiley scored 12.
Keshon Gilbert led Durango (21-10) with 16 points, and Anthony Hunter and Kendrick Gilbert scored 11 apiece.
“This has been the goal since the beginning of the year,” Wiley said. “Probably since last year.”
Bishop Gorman 67, Spanish Springs 17 — Bishop Gorman guard Noah Taitz didn’t expect to spend his senior season on the sideline.
“I’ve just tried to stay mentally strong,” said Taitz, who has spent the last three months nursing a knee injury. “Being out and just sitting through every game is just torture. … I’ve just tried to stay positive about it.”
That attitude paid off Thursday.
Taitz, playing for the first time since November, made back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of the Gaels’ rout of Spanish Springs (22-6). He will suit up Friday for the final time in a Gorman uniform before heading to Stanford in the fall.
“Not playing all year, I told (my coaches), ‘Whatever you guys need out of me. I don’t care if I don’t play it all. Play 10. Play 15,” Taitz said.
The Gaels (27-3) opened with a 13-0 run and led 44-7 at halftime. Zaon Collins had a team-high 11 points, Mwani Wilkinson scored 10 and Taitz nine.
Gorman coach Grant Rice was elated to see Taitz back on the floor.
“You expect a huge senior year,” Rice said. “It’s been tough, emotional. … Everybody seems to forget that he’s one of the best players in the state.”