Bishop Gorman’s Nick Blair had just one thought on his mind when he got the ball with time running down in regulation on Saturday.
“Score,” Blair said. “Just get a bucket quickly, and make sure to keep this game going.”
The junior forward did just that, slashing to the basket for a tying layup as time expired.
The Gaels went on to claim a 76-72 overtime victory over Findlay Prep at South Point Arena, Gorman’s first win in seven tries against the Pilots.
Gorman coach Grant Rice chose not to call timeout with the Pilots leading 64-62, instead trusting point guard Noah Robotham.
Findlay Prep cut Robotham off, but he got the ball to Blair just to the left of the top of the key. Blair hesitated, then attacked the rim, and his shot went through the net as time expired.
“I trust in Nick,” Robotham said. “I knew I had to make the right basketball play, and at that time it was to get Nick the ball, and he delivered. And I’m very excited about it.”
The Gaels (17-4) rode the momentum from Blair’s shot to pull away in overtime. Zach Collins’ basket with 1:24 to play gave Gorman a 72-70 lead, and the Pilots (21-4) were unable to tie or take the lead.
“It was a big play, and sometimes when adversity shows, you need a big play to bring you up,” Robotham said of Blair’s basket. “And Nick was that guy.”
Collins starred in the overtime. The 6-foot-9-inch sophomore was forced into action after 6-10 junior Chase Jeter fouled out with 4:50 remaining in regulation.
Collins, who has backed up Jeter and 7-foot center Stephen Zimmerman all year, made a 3-pointer with 2:52 left in overtime to give the Gaels a 69-66 lead, and his second basket gave them the lead for good.
“People don’t realize how good Zach is,” Rice said. “He’s in a tough situation with two All-Americans in front of him, but he’s been giving us good minutes all year long and really had a big game for us today.”
Gorman opened the game with a 13-0 run as Findlay Prep missed its first 11 field-goal attempts.
“We knew we had to come out strong,” Blair said. “We usually slack a little bit at the beginning of the game, but we came out strong, got a few stops, got the points spread, and at that point, things were looking good for us. They slowly came back, but we came out and just stayed composed and got the win.”
The Gaels led until Derryck Thornton made two free throws to tie the score at 56 with 1:19 to play in the fourth, and the Pilots took their first lead on a 3-pointer by Rashad Vaughn with 48 seconds left. Gorman turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 28 points for Findlay Prep.
The Pilots struggled from the free-throw line, making 21 of 38 attempts (55.3 percent). Renathan Ona Embo had a chance to push the lead to three with 11.8 seconds, but missed his second attempt to leave the score 64-62 and set up Blair’s tying basket.
Robotham finished with 25 points to lead the Gaels, who got 13 points and nine rebounds by Zimmerman. Gorman shot 25 of 37 from the field (67.6 percent).
Kelly Oubre had 22 points and eight rebounds to lead the Pilots, and Vaughn scored 21.
“It’s overwhelming,” Blair said of beating Findlay. “Everybody’s excited, everybody’s happy for this team to be the first Bishop Gorman team to beat Findlay. The feeling is through the roof right now.
“Deep down we know this isn’t a state championship, but it’s just like it.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at (702) 380-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @DamonSeiters on Twitter.