RENO — Bishop Gorman’s boys basketball team isn’t loaded with its usual star-studded cast of characters.
Sure, guard Ryan Ableman is signed to play at Northern Arizona, and forward Darrion Williams committed this week to play at UNR, so the Gaels aren’t devoid of Division I talent by any stretch.
But because Gorman lacks the usual star power and was a young team that had to jell quickly after not playing last season, there was reason to believe the Gaels’ streak of nine consecutive state championships might be vulnerable.
Instead, the Gaels enter the Class 5A state tournament 29-0 and favored to run their streak to 10.
“This is a completely new group,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “Ryan Ableman is the only one that was with us at the varsity level before. It’s great for us as a school, and as coaches we’re excited to be up there. We’re treating it as their first time because it is for most of them.”
Gorman will play Spanish Springs (21-6) in the first semifinal at 5:20 p.m. Friday at Lawlor Events Center, followed by Liberty (20-4) and Douglas (20-7) at 8:40. The winners will play at 5 p.m. Saturday for the championship.
While Gorman has said all the right things about being locked in on Spanish Springs, it would be easy to look ahead to a potential fourth meeting against Liberty.
The Gaels have won all three, but they’ve all been competitive. Gorman defeated Liberty 97-95 in double overtime in the championship game of the Tarkanian Classic, then held on for an 80-71 road victory in late January.
Gorman hosted Liberty last weekend in the 5A Southern Region championship game and used two quick spurts to turn a game that was tied late in the third quarter into a 77-61 win.
“We’re not going to say we don’t think about Liberty or whoever we could possibly play,” Rice said. “But our focus has been on Spanish Springs and really what we do as a team. We’ll focus on Friday, and then we’ll have 24 hours to get ready for Saturday. We’ve had some great battles with Liberty, and we’ll see if it happens again.”
If it does happen, it’s unlikely the atmosphere will be as electric as it was the first three meetings since the game would be played on the opposite end of the state.
But Ableman is excited for the opportunity to play in Reno. His mother and father are from the area, and he still has family there.
“I’m going to have a lot of family in the stands,” Ableman said. “They’ll take up a whole section, for sure.”
Gorman is undefeated in large part because of its depth. Williams is Gorman’s go-to guy, and his 29 points were the difference in the win over Liberty last week. But the Gaels can turn to Abelman or sophomores Jase Richardson and John Mobley for a basket at any time.
The Gaels are also a team in the truest sense of the word, in that they will pass up a good shot if a teammate has a better one.
“This team actually really likes each other, which you never know what you’re going to get with a new group and teenagers,” Rice said. “But they like each other, and they share the ball. Winning is contagious, and they want to win.”
They certainly want to win two more games.
“(Being undefeated) is good, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t go up there and win these next two games,” Williams said. “So we’re going to try and keep it going and finish 31-0.”