Bishop Gorman and Centennial have met in the Sunset Region boys basketball title game in three of the last four seasons.
Friday night’s matchup in front of a packed gym at Arbor View became an instant classic.
Zach Collins had 24 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots and the Gaels escaped with a 71-69 win over the Bulldogs for their eighth consecutive Sunset title and a berth in next week’s Division I state tournament in Reno.
“It could have gone either way,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “Centennial’s a great team, honestly. We’ve had so many close games with Centennial over the years, and tonight could have been the one where they got us.”
Centennial (24-4) had the ball with 12 seconds to play, trailing by two. Troy Brown drove and kicked to a wide-open Jamaal Evans on the right wing. Evans’ 3-pointer was no good, but Brown controlled the long rebound. He stepped behind the 3-point line, but his shot went off the front of the rim as time expired.
“They got two good looks at the basket,” Rice said. “They called a great play. They got it to Evans, because they knew Zach (Collins) was guarding the rim, because we thought Troy was going to go. That was a great call, and the shot was just off. And somehow Troy comes up with the rebound and has a close shot.”
Gorman (23-7) had a chance to seal the win at the foul line, but made just 1 of 4 shots in the final 16 seconds. Charles O’Bannon Jr. made 1 of 2 with 16 seconds left to make it 71-69. Brown went up for the rebound, but Byron Frohnen snuck in and came away with the loose ball and was fouled going for a shot.
Frohnen missed both free throws, and Brown rebounded, setting up the final opportunity.
“So frustrating,” Rice said. “And we had good shooters at the line. It happens. It’s basketball. We let them back in. We could have secured it there.”
Centennial led 47-41 at the half after Brown dribbled out of a double team, drove and kicked to Jake Hutchings for a 3-pointer from the right corner as time expired in the second quarter. The Bulldogs were 19-for-33 (57.6 percent) from the field in the first half, but cooled considerably in the second.
“We came out in the second half and did a really good job,” Rice said. “We picked up the pressure. We pressed a little bit. They made two quick 3s, but luckily we stuck with what we thought would work and we were able to pull ahead a little bit and somehow hung on.”
Centennial was 8-for-30 (26.7 percent) from the field in the second half. Brown, who had 13 points at halftime, hit his first shot of the second half, but missed his next seven attempts.
While Centennial’s star was struggling, Gorman’s was heating up. The 7-foot Collins was 7-for-8 from the field in the second half.
“Going into the half we were pretty frustrated,” Collins said. “We thought we should have been up by 10. So we had to come out with a lot of energy. I told my team to get behind me and I was going to carry them. So I just tried to come out with a lot of energy in the third quarter and do whatever I could.”
O’Bannon had 21 points, and Frohnen had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Gorman.
Brown finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Roy Sparks added 16 points, and Isaiah Banks and Hutchings each scored 15.
“It was crazy,” Collins said. “It was probably the loudest high school game I’ve ever played in. It was exhilarating. It fueled all of us. I’m sad this is my last time playing in a high school gym with the atmosphere like this, but it was a wonderful way to go out, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters