Updated January 27, 2022 - 10:39 pm
The last time the two premier boys basketball teams in Southern Nevada went head to head and traded elbows and floor burns, Bishop Gorman did not take the lead against Liberty until the first of two pulsating overtimes.
On Thursday night, it took the Gaels all of 45 seconds.
Darrion Williams sank a long 3-pointer for a 3-2 lead that Gorman did not relinquish en route to an 80-71 victory in the second showdown of the nationally ranked rivals in front of a standing room-only crowd at the Patriots’ steamy gym.
“We were ready for them, and they were ready for us,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said after the Gaels, ranked No. 5 in the U.S. by MaxPreps, improved to 20-0 and 5-0 in the Class 5A Southern League. “We had a game plan (to rectify) some things we didn’t do well the first time we played them. But I was proud of our guys, especially in that first half.”
And doubly especially in the first quarter. Gorman kept finding spots beyond the 3-point line and finding the bottom of the net with long, rainbow shots en route to a 24-12 lead in the sequel to the game of the year in Southern Nevada.
After falling behind by 18 points in the first half in the championship game of the Tarkanian Classic on its home floor Dec. 21, Gorman rallied for a 97-95 victory in a double-overtime thriller. The game featured buzzer-beating baskets by Gorman’s John Mobley and Ryan Abelman, a successful heave from beyond half court by the Gaels’ Ryder Elisaldez that came a split second after the end of regulation play and a sensational 41-point effort by Liberty’s Joshua Jefferson.
There would be no such drama in the second meeting. Although the teams battled on even terms during the second, third and fourth quarters, Liberty got no closer than 78-71 when Jefferson hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
One of the major differences was Gorman making Jefferson work harder for his shots. The 6-foot-9 inch forward bound for Saint Mary’s of the West Coast Conference was held to 20 points and 13 shots by Williams and a host of others wearing white shirts who swarmed all over him.
Williams also was a major story on the offensive end, leading Gorman with 24 points. Mobley scored 21, Jason Richardson 18 and Chris Nwuli 10 for the Gaels.
Angelo Kambala got hot from beyond the 3-point line in the second half and led Liberty (12-3, 3-1), ranked 29th by MaxPreps, with 24 points.
Much like in the first game, the intensity was at a fever pitch and boiled into pushing and shoving after the whistle. Liberty coach Kevin Soares, a former Gorman and UNR star, was assessed a technical in the final minute for disputing a foul call that he thought should have been traveling.
“We’ll be back,” Soares called out to the crowd behind the Patriots’ bench, anticipating two more likely clashes with Gorman during region and state tournament play. “When it counts most, we’ll be back.”