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Bishop Gorman outlasts Liberty in double overtime thriller

If you thought the football rivalry between Bishop Gorman and Liberty was intense, you should have been on hand for Tuesday’s basketball showdown between the local high school unbeatens.

John Mobley hit a jump shot from just inside the 3-point line, lifting the host Gaels to a 97-95 double overtime victory in the Platinum Division championship game of the Tarkanian Classic.

The ball nestled into the net as the final buzzer sounded, ending one of the most exciting high school games in recent memory.

“We’ve been in some great games over the years in this gym and other gyms across the city,” said Grant Rice, coach of the nine-time reigning Nevada big-school state champions. “But that’s definitely one of the better ones, without a doubt.

“Two really good teams, great atmosphere, both teams played hard. It just came down to a couple of big plays we made.”

The first came in the final seconds of the first overtime when Gorman’s Ryan Abelman sank a 3-pointer to forge a tie at 87. The second was Mobley’s buzzer-beater after Liberty’s sensational forward, Joshua Jefferson, made two free throws with 14 seconds left in the second overtime that tied the score again at 95.

“I told all those (Liberty) guys to keep their heads up, we’re probably going to see them three more times,” Rice said after the pulsating victory that upped Gorman’s record to 10-0. “They’re really good.”

Gorman trailed by 18 points in the first half and never led in regulation, though the Gaels nearly won in spectacular fashion before the extra periods. After a last-second scramble, a heave from just outside the half-court stripe by Gorman’s Ryan Elisaldez went into the basket — a second (or two) after time expired, according to the officials.

“I thought it was good … but at this point, I’m kind of glad (the basket didn’t count). It gave the fans more basketball,” Rice said.

Abelman kept Gorman in the game early and led the Gaels with 28 points. The 6-foot-9-inch Jefferson finished with 41 points for Liberty, which lost for the first time in seven games.

“It was a great game,” said Patriots coach Kevin Soares, a former Gorman and UNR star. “(The fans) got treated to something really good, really special.”

Soares said the same can be said about the Gorman mystique, which, combined with the fifth foul on Liberty sophomore playmaker Dedan Thomas Jr. with 3:40 to play, seemed to rescue the Gaels from a rare defeat on their home court.

“They’re nationally known; they’ve got some coaches over there that do a great job and kids that have talent who want to go there and play,” Soares said. “That’s why they’re tough to beat.”

But the Patriots’ coach managed to muster a smile in the subdued Liberty locker room.

“Get your popcorn ready,” he said of what promises to be an entertaining seasonlong series between the two rivals. ”There’s going to be three more (of these).”

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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