When Mojave junior guard Anthony Marshall picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter on Thursday, Rattlers coach Tony Hopkins gambled — and crapped out.
Hopkins left Marshall on the floor, he fouled out with 37.2 seconds left in the third, and Cheyenne went on to cruise to a 69-49 victory in the Sunset Region boys semifinals at Palo Verde.
The loss ended a 22-game winning streak for top-ranked Mojave (26-2) and put Cheyenne (17-7) in the Sunset Region championship game against Bishop Gorman (26-4) at 7 tonight at Palo Verde.
“What else are you going to do?” Hopkins said. “He ain’t going to help us sitting on the bench. So we rolled the dice. We had to.”
Mojave trailed 48-41 when Marshall fouled out, and the Desert Shields outscored the Rattlers 21-9 the rest of the way.
Mojave had beaten Cheyenne three times this season, once in a holiday tournament and twice in Northwest Division play.
“It feels real good to beat them and get the one that counts,” Cheyenne junior Elijah Johnson said. “That tournament and them two season games don’t mean nothing, because tomorrow we get a chance to get a banner and they don’t.”
Johnson didn’t reach double figures in scoring, finishing with nine points. But he had 11 rebounds and nine assists and orchestrated the Cheyenne offense as the Desert Shields attacked the rim with or without Marshall on the floor.
“He’s a special young man,” Cheyenne coach Teral Fair said of Johnson. “He’s growing by leaps and bounds. And this is the time of year if he’s going to be one of the elite players, this is when he has to show up.”
Even before Marshall fouled out, he was virtually useless on defense because of the fouls and forced to be a jump shooter on offense. Without Marshall attacking the rim, Mojave was held without a two-point basket in the second half, settling for four 3-pointers and two free throws.
Demetric Williams led Cheyenne with 20 points, and Christian Lightbourne had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Fair hopes his team has some energy left for Gorman, which rolled to a 78-58 win over Durango in the other semifinal.
“I’m hoping we have something left,” Fair said. “I’ve been trying to explain to the kids that this is just one step along the way to get to our ultimate goal, which is to finish it off in Reno next week.”
• Bishop Gorman 78, Durango 58 — The Trailblazers (12-13) beat Gorman 66-63 on the final night of the regular season but were no match for the Gaels on Thursday.
“We were really focused,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “We’re still disappointed about the loss last week, but maybe it was supposed to happen that way. We were ready to go today, definitely, right form the start.”
The Gaels dominated the glass in the first half with 17 second-chance points to take a 41-24 lead and cruise to the win.
Kylel Coleman scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Gaels. He had 16 points in the first half on 7-for-9 shooting.
Contact Prep Sports Editor Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 380-4587.