No state championships will be decided when Bishop Gorman meets Findlay Prep in boys basketball today.
But it’s not exactly an exhibition game, either.
“It’s a fun thing that both schools do take pride in, and it’s neat to see a lot of people in the city come out and support the event,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “It may be the only high school game that some people see throughout the year, but it’s one that they circle on the calendar and come out and see. Hopefully, it’ll be a competitive game.”
The Gaels (16-4) and Pilots (21-3) will meet for the seventh time at 2 p.m. at South Point Arena. Findlay Prep won the first six meetings.
“Our guys are going to be up for it,” Rice said. “It’s not a do-or-die game. It does go on our record, but it’s more for bragging rights for the kids and in the city.”
Both teams opened the season with top-10 national rankings, though both have stumbled a bit. Findlay Prep lost back-to-back games in the Tarkanian Classic in December, but has rebounded to win six straight. The Pilots are ranked No. 11 nationally by USA Today.
Three of Gorman’s four losses are to teams currently ranked in the top 10 nationally: No. 3 Rainier Beach (Wash.), No. 4 Oak Hill Academy (Va.) and No. 7 Curie (Ill.). The Gaels have won seven straight since the loss to Rainier Beach.
“When you have a nationally ranked team in your backyard, you’re always going to look forward to that,” first-year Findlay Prep coach Jerome Williams said of Gorman. “They’re a good team, a well-coached team and obviously state champions, and we’ve got to treat them as such.”
Williams said Gorman’s inside duo of 7-foot Stephen Zimmerman and 6-10 Chase Jeter will provide a challenge.
“(They are) very talented guys at their positions, and they’re the type of players that if you don’t treat them with respect, they will make you respect them,” Williams said.
Findlay Prep is close to full strength with the return of standout guard Rashad Vaughn from a left knee injury. He scored 12 points Monday in a 73-43 win over Wesleyan Christian Academy (N.C.). It was his first action in a month.
“He’s our MVP,” Williams said. “He really draws the defense. He really can command double teams because he’s really gifted offensively. And he’s one of our better defenders, as well, on the perimeter.”
Findlay Prep doesn’t have a player on its roster who has faced Gorman, so Williams conceded that the matchup “doesn’t have the same luster as it has in years past” for his players.
But the same isn’t true at Gorman, where the Gaels try for their first win over the Pilots. The closest the team came was an 89-86 double-overtime loss in 2011.
“We’re getting a lot of buzz around school and throughout the city for the game,” Rice said. “It’s kind of been a big-time annual city tradition.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at (702) 380-4587. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.