RENO -- Just as it had done all year, the Cheyenne High School boys basketball team didn't do anything flashy Friday night in the State 4A Tournament championship game. The Desert Shield simply played as a unit.
And won. Just like they did 31 times in 32 games this season.
This was the big one, though, as the Desert Shield from North Las Vegas captured their first state basketball championship with a 63-53 victory against Palo Verde in an all-Sunset Region final at Lawlor Events Center. Cheyenne lost to Bishop Gorman in last year's state final, but they weren't about to be denied this time.
"These guys play hard, they play unselfish and they play to win," Cheyenne coach Larry Johnson said. "Any of these guys could go and play anywhere in the city. Some of them had to make adjustments in their game and play different roles to help the team, but they did it because they wanted to win."
Cheyenne (31-1) absorbed its only loss of the season in December during holiday tournament play against perennial national power Oak Hill Academy (Virginia), 74-66.
The championship came down to two familiar rivals who know each other well. Palo Verde (28-7) lost four times to Cheyenne this season and finished second behind the Desert Shield during the Northwest Division season, at the Sunset Region Tournament and finally at state. Cheyenne won the second regular season meeting 60-55 and won the Sunset Region final last Saturday night 75-45.
The opposing coaches, Johnson and Palo Verde's Phil Clarke are well acquainted, too. Clarke was formerly the head coach at Cheyenne and Johnson was his assistant.
"My hat's off to Phil and his team. They had a great year," Johnson said.
Palo Verde only trailed 56-48 with 2:16 left to play, but Eric Ashley went for a layup and then Lorrenzo Wade cut to the basket from the right wing and slammed down a dunk to extend the lead to 60-48 and put an exclamation point on the victory.
Wade led all scorers in the game with 20 points (7-for-11 shooting from the field) and Ashley contributed 13.
"Wade always causes your problems, but then if you concentrate on him, it seems like Ashley always comes up with the key basket or key rebound," Clarke said.
"But I'm proud of our kids. We went from being last in our league and not making the playoffs to being in the state championship game," he added.
Lendor Coney scored 18 points and Jarrell Harrison 10 to lead the Panthers.
State 4A Championships
Cheyenne 63, Palo Verde 53
Palo Verde 8 13 16 16 -- 53
Cheyenne 12 17 19 15 -- 63
Palo Verde (28-7): Wood 2 2-2 6, Steffen 1 0-0 3, Schulte 3 0-1 6, Harrison 3 4-6 10, Coney 5 7-7 17, Lawson 1 0-0 2, Steffen 1 0-0 2, Totals 16 19-25 53.
Cheyenne (31-1): Barlow 3 2-2 9, Ashley 5 3-6 13, Wade 7 6-8 20, Fuller 3 4-6 10, Ferguson 2 2-2 6, Williams 0 2-2 2, Andrews 1 0-0 2, Totals 21 19-26 63.
3-point goals: Palo Verde 2-9 (Steffen 1, Lendor 1), Cheyenne 2-3 (Barlow 1, Andrews 1). Team fouls: Palo Verde 24, Cheyenne 19. Fouled out: (Palo Verde) Wood. Technical fouls: None. Rebounds: Palo Verde 17 (Lendor 4), Cheyenne 18 (Ashley 6). Assists: Palo Verde 10 (Harrison 3, Wilmore 3), Cheyenne 12 (Barlow 5, Ferguson 4).