Flocks of spectators vacated South Point Arena moments after Bishop Gorman defeated Findlay Prep on Saturday. But Gaels players stuck around to enjoy the fruits of their labor with friends and family.
A third win over the Pilots was certainly worth celebrating.
Gorman forced a turnover in the waning seconds to secure a 59-55 victory over Findlay Prep in the annual Big City Showdown. Isaiah Cottrell had a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds, and Noah Taitz broke a 55-all tie with a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:35 to play.
Findlay Prep has a 10-3 lead in the series between the local powerhouses. Saturday, though, belonged to Gorman.
“We’ll take it,” Gaels coach Grant Rice said. “We’ve had a couple here that didn’t go our way here. … We needed this.”
The Pilots (14-5) and Gaels (14-3) — ranked No. 9 and No. 10 on the West Coast by USA Today — spent the first two months of the season traveling the country, playing the best competition they could find. Their journeys then brought them to South Point Arena, where they’ve played the past decade for the horseshoe rivalry trophy.
And for bragging rights in Las Vegas.
“They were talking a lot,” Cottrell said. “We were looking on Twitter and all that. We were preparing for this for a few weeks.”
Gorman point guard Zaon Collins controlled the tempo in the first half and helped the Gaels take a 24-23 halftime lead by penetrating Findlay Prep’s 2-3 zone defense and finding cutters and shooters. He helped Cottrell find his rhythm in the third quarter and assisted the 6-foot-10-inch power forward on three consecutive dunks to help the Gaels pad their lead.
“He went on a little personal run,” Rice said. “Zaon got a couple steals and got Isaiah a couple dunks, and then Isaiah got confident. Once you get a couple easy ones, then you can make those big moves.”
But the Pilots didn’t wilt in the fourth quarter.
Senior guard PJ Fuller knifed to the basket for two game-tying layups, and Connor Murphy responded to a Taitz 3-pointer with a trey. Murphy scored a game-high 18 points.
But Taitz broke the tie with another trey, the Pilots turned the ball over after a timeout, and the Gaels earned bragging rights.
“It’s really incredible,” Cottrell said. “I’ve played in this game, this is my third time and my first win. It’s crazy.”