Connect with us



Bishop Gorman Defeats Coronado to Win State Championship

Steve Marcus

Bishop Gorman Noah Westbrook (13) gets a rebound and puts up the ball during the second half of the boys Class 5A state basketball championship at the Thomas & Mack Center Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.

Bishop Gorman’s Noah Westbrook tore his knee so badly in the fall of 2021 that it required surgery and a year of rehabilitation.

There goes another high school basketball season down the drain, he thought. His freshman year never happened with high school sports being canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Westbrook, with his rehab not progressing as fast as he hoped, decided it was time to stop playing. He aspires to be a firefighter and was exploring how to launch into the career.

Fast forward to Friday night.

Westbrook had 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting and 9 rebounds in the Class 5A state championship game against Coronado at the Thomas & Mack Center, giving Gorman a boost on the interior in defending the Cougars’ Tee Bartlett in a 63-60 victory.

“I had lost my passion, but then I started thinking that I needed to play at least one season of high school basketball,” Westbrook said. “After seeing how it worked out, I’m glad I did.”

Same for his Gorman teammates.

If Westbrook doesn’t have a pair of offensive rebounds and easy layups against Bartlett, including a rebound and bucket to open the fourth quarter, you can argue that Coronado wins the championship.

The 6-foot-11 Bartlett, the Class 5A player of the year, had 15 points and 13 rebounds. Gorman dedicated much of its game-plan to slowing him down, including calling on Westbrook to play the game of his life.

Westbrook never envisioned winning a state championship, or being a key contributor. He had peacefully walked away.

Then, team captain Ryder Elisaldez came calling. 

The Gaels had a roster dominated by inexperienced underclassmen and needed a veteran voice — even if that senior had never played a minute of a high school game.

More importantly, the Gaels needed the 6-foot-8 Westbrook to match Bartlett, who is so dominant in the post that Coronado was considered the team to beat at the beginning of the season.

Gorman coach Grant Rice got a phone call from Westbrook in October weeks before the season was set to begin. He requested a meeting in the coach’s office.

Rice thought to himself that either Westbrook had come around and finally wanted to play — or, the coaching jokingly said, wanted a letter of recommendation to pursue firefighting.

“For a guy playing his first year of high school basketball, he had a great year,” Rice said. “Great kid. We obviously wouldn’t have won this game without him.”

Most Gorman teams have a roster of veteran players with significant playoff experience. This year they had one — Elisaldez.

It was so bad in June that Gorman posted a 1-3 record at a prestigious tournament in Phoenix. The defeats each came by 30 points, Rice said.

“This is the hardest we’ve worked since I can remember, you know, probably since I got the job (in the early 2000s),” Rice said. “The kids deserve all of the credit. It’s easy to coach when you really have good kids and great parents that buy into what you do. … The kids all believed in each other.”

Getting Westbrook back in the fold helped change the program’s fortunes. But it was developing the team’s younger players that made the difference.

Freshman Kameron Cooper had nine points and four rebounds in 19 minutes, taking turns on the interior in battling Bartlett. lan Nikolov, another freshman, had 11 points in 26 minutes.

The game was tied at 60 with 1:15 to play.

Jett Washington was fouled near the basket and proceeded to make 1 of 2 free throws. Gorman’s defense forced Coronado to turn the ball over on its final two possessions and Elisaldez sealed the game at the free throw line to climb into double digits with 11 points.

The Gaels return point guard Nick Jefferson and a slew of younger players who appear primed to go on another state championship run.

When Gorman lost the 2022 championship game to Liberty in overtime, it snapped a streak of nine straight championships. At the time, that was the best streak in the nation.

This was Gorman’s 14th state championship with Rice as coach. You can argue this was one of his best coaching jobs.

But “it’s not about me,” Rice insisted. “I’m happy for the kids, because they bought into what we were teaching.”

Gorman over the years has had plenty of notables come up big in the state tournament. On Friday, Westbrook added his name to the list alongside the likes of CJ Watson, Johnathan Loyd, Shabazz Muhammad, Zach Collins and more.

“It wasn’t me. It was our team,” Westbrook said. “We all have genuine friendships and we love each other.”

Gorman also won the Class 5A girls title by beating Centennial, 57-53. It’s the first season the Gael boys and girls have won titles since 2010.

Article written by #LasVegasSun