Bishop Gorman forward Byron Frohnen doesn’t get much attention while playing alongside a McDonald’s All American and a top junior recruit. But the senior showed how important he can be on Friday night.
Frohnen scored nine of his 14 points in the fourth quarter as the top-ranked Gaels rallied for a 78-68 road win over No. 4 Durango in the regular-season finale for both teams.
“I was really proud of Byron, because he attacked from the high post,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “I thought he was the difference there, attacking the rim.”
Frohnen scored the first bucket of the fourth quarter to give the Gaels (20-7, 8-0 Southwest League) a 55-53 lead, and they wouldn’t trail again.
He was able to consistently find room in the high post against Durango’s 2-3 zone. Frohnen added eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
“They were leaving the middle open, so I just flashed high post and they told me to see what I could do,” Frohnen said. “So I just attacked the basket and finished.”
It was all Durango early. The Trailblazers (16-6, 5-3) led by seven in the first quarter and 38-36 at halftime.
“Durango’s a good team,” Rice said. “We beat them pretty badly at Gorman, but we knew this was going to be a close game. (It’s) the last game of the year, and we knew at home they were going to play really well. They came out on fire, and we didn’t come out well.”
That changed at the start of the second half when the Gaels began to pound the ball inside to 6-foot-11-inch McDonald’s All American Zach Collins, who drew foul after foul against Durango’s big men.
Collins scored eight of his 23 points in the third quarter, but more important, he got Durango’s 6-8 forwards — Jason Landman and Michael Diggins — into foul trouble and forced the Trailblazers into the zone.
Diggins picked up his fourth with 3:52 to go in the third quarter, and Landman got his fourth with 2:20 left in the period. Landman, who has committed to Air Force, left the game after picking up that foul and didn’t return. He finished with two points and three rebounds. Diggins had 11 points, all in the first half.
“We got their big man in foul trouble, and it allowed us to control the paint more,” Frohnen said.
Gorman also buckled down against Durango point guard Demetrius Valdez. Valdez had 14 points and missed only two shots in the first half, but Christian Popoola’s defense helped limit Valdez to four points in the second half.
Popoola finished with 16 points and 11 assists.
“I thought Christian Popoola played his best game of the year,” Rice said. “He listened to everything we said and played great defense in the second half on Demetrius Valdez.”
Chase Ruiz led Durango with 23 points, and Zyare Ruffin scored 10. Ruiz was 6-for-10 on 3-pointers and added six assists.He picked up the scoring slack in the second half with 14 points.
Collins had 11 rebounds and six blocked shots, and Charles O’Bannon Jr. scored 16 for Gorman, which will be looking for its eighth consecutive Sunset Region title next week.
“We just have to realize that everyone’s gunning for us,” Rice said. “That’s just the way it is, and there’s some good teams. We know we’ve got several good teams ahead in the playoffs, and nothing’s a given. I’m glad this was a close game. I think we learned a lot from it.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters