RENO - Trevor Shaffer stood outside the Douglas boys' locker room deep inside Lawlor Events Center Thursday night, searching for the right words to explain what had just happened.
He'd just seen his high school career end at the hands of Bishop Gorman , for all intents and purposes, a college team - a team that lines up four seniors bound for Division I schools measuring in at 6-9, 6-9, 6-8 and 6-6. The Gaels boast Shabazz Muhammed, widely considered to be the best high school player in the country.
Following a 73-40 loss in the 4A state semifinals, there wasn't much to say.
"They're good," he said with a half-laugh. "They are a freaking good team. You can't take anything away from them.
"Coach worked with us a lot trying to get us ready. We had 6, 7 or 8 guys out there on defense during practice. But their size, their speed, their strength ... there's just not much we could have done different to prepare."
From the time Gorman won the tip-off and tossed a long pass to the basket for a lay-in by Muhammed, it was clearly going to be a long night for the Tigers,
But, despite the Gaels' superior height, Douglas still found ways to work the ball around and find open looks. The problem was, no shots were falling.
The Tigers missed their first 13 shots, all of which were rebounded by Gorman's interior defenders and quickly shot back out into transition.
It was 6-0 within 60 seconds, 12-0 within two minutes and 24-0 six minutes in.
Nick Maestretti, the 6-2 senior who drew the unenviable task of guarding the 6-6 Muhammed, finally got Douglas on the board with 1:50 remaining in the first quarter. He drew a foul on a made lay-up and converted the free throw.
"Gorman just plays solid all the time," Douglas coach Corey Thacker said. "They got back and got points in transition. At some point, there's just not a ton you can do.
"Our guys were getting open looks, we just couldn't get anything to fell. They came out, got after it and it didn't work out. We hit some of those, instead of 26-0, we're looking at 26-13 or something like that."
Douglas entered the second trailing 26-5 before finally finding its footing. Hunter Myers made a free throw, Maestretti hit a runner and Myers added another basket for a 5-4 stretch to close the gap to 30-10.
After another Gorman run (8-0), Douglas 6-10 sophomore James Herrick came in an made an immediate impact, sparking the Tigers best stretch of the game.
Herrick scored a pair of lay-ups on back-to-back trips and challenged Muhammed on a shot in the paint. Another Herrick basket, followed by scores from Shaffer and Connor Hughes, finished off a 10-4 run over three minutes near the end of the half.
"James came in and got to the rim and finished his shots," Thacker said. "He was challenging guys on defense. That was stuff we've seen him do in practice, but that was huge against players of this caliber. You can't simulate that type of experience in practice.
"All our younger guys got great experience tonight. Guys like Joe Syammach, Ausin Evans or Michael Nolting. This was invaluable for them. For the seniors too, this is not going to be fun for about a week. But we got to go up against some amazing players. They got to play in a place like Lawlor. It's something they'll remember the rest of their lives. And for them, coming back and seeing next year's team play hard, they get the satisfaction of knowing that was something they helped establish."
Gorman outscored Douglas 18-15 in the quarter, but Thacker said he was impressed with the fight his team showed.
"Our guys never give up," he said. "That's something we've said all year. In life, if you can come out, give it everything you have and never give up, that's a win. Who cares about the final score if you can do that. That's what we're building here -- learning to give it everything you have even when all the odds are against you. It's something that builds character. That's what we want to be about with this program, and that's the type of kids we had this year."
Gorman pushed ahead with a 25-4 third quarter, this time going on runs of 9-0 and 14-0, en route to a 69-24 advantage.
Gorman pulled its starters for the fourth and Douglas pounced, outscoring the Gaels 16-4 down the stretch as the game finished with a running clock due to the 40-point mercy rule.
Muhammed led all scorers in the game with 27 points, 20 of which came in the first half. Demetris Morant had 14 and Ben Carter had 10 while Rosco Allen added eight.
Maestretti led Douglas with 11 while Hughes had eight and Myers and Herrick each chipped in six. Michael Nolting scored four, Shaffer and Steven Werth each had two and Matt Wylie had one in the loss.