When Bishop Gorman’s boys basketball team found itself in a close game with Centennial on Friday night, it had plenty of experience to draw upon.
The Gaels had already survived two close calls against the Bulldogs this season, including a double-overtime thriller last week.
“We’ve had a lot of close games down the stretch this year. We’re a young group of guys, and that experience helps,” said Noah Robotham, who had two huge baskets down the stretch of an 80-78 win in the Division I Sunset Region title game at Durango High School. “We got stops when we needed to and got some baskets. We just did a really good job when we needed to.”
Robotham, who had just one point in the first three quarters, broke a 65-all tie on a 3-pointer with about four minutes remaining. He followed with a reverse layup on a fast break moments later to give the Gaels a five-point cushion they would never relinquish.
Gorman (27-3), which got 24 points and 17 rebounds from sophomore Stephen Zimmerman, gained a berth into the state tournament with the win. Centennial (21-9) will face Valley (21-9) in a play-in game at Del Sol at 6 p.m. Monday.
The Bulldogs never quit and erased an 11-point deficit in the third quarter to take the lead.
The teams went back and forth early in the final period before Robotham’s consecutive baskets, but the Gaels still weren’t in the clear.
Khalil Thompson made his sixth 3-pointer, from the corner, to cut the Centennial deficit to 77-74 with 1:33 to play. Gorman then ran more than a minute off the clock as the Bulldogs tried for a steal.
Eventually, Obim Okeke made two free throws. Malcolm Allen answered with a quick basket for the Bulldogs. He scored again after Trey Kennedy made 1 of 2 from the line, but the Gaels didn’t have to inbound the ball again before the clock ran out.
“I think it’s the toughest team we’ve had at Centennial. The kids don’t give up; they’re winners,” Centennial coach Todd Allen said.
The Bulldogs’ backcourt was sensational yet again. Malcolm Allen had 25 points, and his twin brother, Marcus, added 24. Thompson finished with 20. They were the only three Centennial players to score in the second half.
“I’ve said it before, the twins are just a tough matchup. They are just thoroughbred athletes, and it’s really hard for us to stay with them,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said.
But there was little the Bulldogs could do inside to slow Zimmerman.
With about three minutes to play, the 7-footer grabbed an offensive rebound with one hand and a defender draped on him and tossed it back in for a 3-point play. It was indicative of his entire night.
Rashad Muhammad scored Gorman’s first seven points, had 18 in the half and 23 points in the game.
Trey Kennedy had 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Gaels.