Friday, Feb. 2, 2024 | 9:42 p.m.
The players on the Liberty High School bench were on their feet tonight in the final seconds of the Patriots’ 72-65 win over Bishop Gorman.
They could have easily stormed the court in celebration. This, after all, is one of Nevada’s great rivalries — regardless of sport.
But beating Gorman isn’t anything new, and Liberty’s players seemed to realize the Patriots’ win was far from a basketball upset. It was expected, coach Kevin Soares said.
“You know what? We don’t celebrate league wins,” Soares said. “We celebrate championships, and that is what we are holding out for.”
Tonight reaffirmed that the programs were on equal football, Soares said. It took a stern talk from Soares at halftime to remind his team of that.
Liberty led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter, then was limited to just 10 points in the second quarter. Gorman was quicker, more aggressive and more physical in erasing the deficit for a 34-31 halftime lead.
Soares wasn’t happy, and he let his players know about it during the halftime break.
He told them: “Stop looking at the name on the jersey and play,” Soares said. “Two years ago, we beat them. We broke through. …There is no reason to be intimidated by that team. You guys are just as good. You deserve to be here.”
It was a different Liberty team in the third quarter, especially with senior forward Andre Porter — a UNLV football commit — leading the charge. Between football and basketball, Porter has been part of many battles with Gorman.
It was his turn to lead.
Porter poured in 10 straight points for Liberty to open the third quarter, including draining a pair of 3-pointers to help the Patriots regain the advantage.
Outside shooting, he admits, isn’t his strength. But stepping up in big games is a different story.
“Gorman has always been the top dog and everyone kind of bows down to them,” said Porter, who finished with 31 points. “I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it because we have had some tough games with them. But that doesn’t mean Gorman is always going to be on top. If you get up on them early (like we did), you are going to have a chance.”
Tyus Thomas had 12 points, post player Tyler Bright tallied nine points, and Dante Steward maneuvered his way to the basket for a pair of clutch late field goals to help Liberty close strong. The game was tied at 60 with three minutes to play.
This likely won’t be the last meeting between the schools.
Arbor View, Coronado, Gorman and Liberty are projected to reach the state semifinals in the Class 5A in what is a wide open race to the championship.
Jett Washington led Gorman 14 points.
At halftime, Liberty officials honored former athletes who were picked to be part of the school’s inaugural hall of fame class.
They included: Kai Nacua (football), Amanda Delgado (girls basketball), Danny Musovski (soccer) and Ashlie Blake (track and field).
Nacua, who wound up playing three seasons in the NFL, is widely considered the best football player in the school’s 20-year history.
Musovski won an MLS Cup with LAFC and currently plays with the Seattle Sounders.
Delgado played in college at Oregon, and Blake competed with UCLA. Both are college grads.