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Beating Gorman: The power of hard work, high expectations

A little more than a year ago, Nevada public school officials were working to halt competition in interscholastic sports between their teams and private Bishop Gorman High School of Las Vegas.

Gaels teams were enjoying a period of unmatched dominance, particularly in higher-profile sports. A troubling sentiment was gaining momentum: Public school teams, with rosters largely limited by attendance zone boundaries, simply were not capable of beating Bishop Gorman’s squads, which attracted elite athletes from across the valley and beyond.

Cooler heads on the Nevada Interscholastic Activites Association Board of Control prevailed that spring. A committee was formed to examine the organization’s competitive climate. Bishop Gorman was not banished from the NIAA, and the Clark County School District did not withdraw from the organization in protest.

A few months later, Bishop Gorman’s baseball team won its seventh straight state championship.

Although plenty of local education officials still want nothing to do with Bishop Gorman, there is a sizable contingent of local coaches who reject the suggestion that their athletes will never be good enough to beat the mighty Gaels. They demand that players work harder, play smarter and believe they can be the ones who knock off Bishop Gorman.

Coronado High School’s baseball team answered that call this weekend, beating Bishop Gorman twice Saturday at the College of Southern Nevada to win the state championship. Henderson’s Cougars advanced to the finals through the tournament’s loser’s bracket, then beat the Gaels 11-7 and 7-4. In the deciding game, Coronado senior Chandler Blanchard pitched a complete game on one day’s rest and hit three home runs.

Far from huge underdogs, the Cougars finished the season 36-4. However, the last time a team other than Bishop Gorman won the state’s big-school baseball tournament, all of Coronado’s players were in elementary school.

Would the victory have meant as much to Coronado and its players if Bishop Gorman had been kicked out of the NIAA? Would breaking the Gaels’ seven-year title run have been as sweet if Bishop Gorman were denied the opportunity to defend its crown? Of course not. The Cougars’ players and coaches will remember Saturday’s victories for the rest of their lives precisely because they beat Bishop Gorman — something too many grown-ups said couldn’t be done.

Congratulations to Bishop Gorman High School on an amazing run and yet another great baseball season. But bigger congratulations go to Coronado for showing every other Nevada high school that with dedication and confidence, anything is possible for our young men and women. Eventually, Bishop Gorman’s state title streaks in football, basketball and other sports will be broken as well, simply because educators, coaches, parents and students dared to have high expectations — something Nevada needs a lot more of.

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