Updated February 25, 2022 - 11:27 pm
RENO — Both of Bishop Gorman’s senior leaders had reasons to want to put on a show in Friday’s Class 5A boys state basketball semifinal against Spanish Springs.
Ryan Abelman had a large group of friends and family in the stands, and Darrion Williams was playing on the court at Lawlor Events Center that will be his home next season when he gets to UNR.
Abelman made five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points, and Williams had 19 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in only 18 minutes to help the Gaels to an 83-49 win and a berth in the state championship game.
“Ryan and Darrion really came up big in the first half,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said.
Gorman (30-0) will play for its 10th straight state championship when it meets Liberty, a 62-43 winner over Douglas, at 5 p.m. Saturday.
It will be the fourth meeting between the Gaels and Patriots this season.
Spanish Springs gave the Gaels problems defensively early by staying patient and finding open shooters.
The Gaels led 41-23 at halftime, but it could have been worse. Jacob Penny almost single-handedly kept the Cougars (21-7) from getting run out of the gym with 22 points, including all 11 of Spanish Springs’ output in the second quarter.
“We knew they would be (scrappy), and I’ve known Coach (Kyle) Penny for a long time,” Rice said. “For him to have his two sons, Jake and Nathan, that’s got to be special. Jake Penny was on fire there for a while. We talked about it at halftime, and then he comes out and hits two 3s.”
John Mobley scored 14 points and Jase Richardson 13 for Gorman. The lopsided score — the game was played with a running clock for the final 5:30 — gave the Gaels plenty of opportunities to get several players into the game.
“We were happy to get a lead so that we could play a lot of guys,” Rice said. “We had nine in our usual rotation who got good minutes, then we got our subs in who practiced so hard all year and got them to play on this big stage. That means a lot.”
Liberty gets one more shot at Gorman
Liberty has spent its season trying to find a way to beat Gorman.
The Patriots (21-4) haven’t done so yet, but they will get one more chance after defeating Douglas.
“One more shot. This is what we’ve been waiting for,” Liberty coach Kevin Soares said. “This is for all the marbles, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Liberty won Friday’s game despite being without star forward Justin Jefferson, who was suspended for a game after being ejected during last week’s Southern Region final against Gorman.
Dedan Thomas picked up some of the slack with 17 points to lead 10 Patriots who scored. But it was the Liberty defense that held the Tigers (21-8) to one field goal in the final 9:32 of the first half that made the biggest difference.
“We had to get back to that. We’d gotten away from playing good solid defense, and we did a good job in the first half,” Soares said. “But then we started looking at the score and playing the score. But it’s high school kids, and that’s what you get sometimes.”
Kasen Boggs led Douglas, the Northern League champion, with 13 points.