Zaon Collins isn’t Bishop Gorman’s most highly touted prospect, and he generally isn’t the team’s top scorer. But the sophomore point guard might be the team’s most important player.
At least he was on Monday night.
Collins had 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals to lead the top-ranked Gaels to a 70-55 home win over No. 2 Clark. It was the first loss of the season for the Chargers.
“It seems like every time they cut it to eight or under 10, Zaon made a big play,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “It was in transition where he penetrated and kicked to somebody or just beat his guy and got a layup. The kid, he was special tonight.”
Clark led 10-7 early, but Collins helped key a 12-2 run with a steal and bucket with 4:33 to go in the first quarter that gave the Gaels (12-3, 6-0 Southwest League) an 11-10 lead. They wouldn’t trail again.
After scoring 26 points in the first quarter, the Gaels slowed things down when Clark (15-1, 5-1) went to a 2-3 zone in the second period. And even after the Chargers went back to man-to-man, Gorman was content to spread the floor with its guards and look for opportunities to drive.
“We knew it was going to be a little bit of a slow-down game, so we’re OK with that,” Rice said. “We want to play fast. You saw in the first quarter, we got up and got after it. But once we got that 10-point lead, we’ll play slow if we need to. I’d rather play fast, but we’ll do what we have to do to control the game.”
Collins was able to control the pace, and he always seemed to find the seam to penetrate and either set up a teammate or get to the basket.
“I saw the opening and I knew we had to score, so I just went to see if I could drive and kick, see if I could drive and score, whatever’s best for my team,” Collins said.
Gorman also did an outstanding job in slowing down Clark standout Jalen Hill, who has signed with Oklahoma. Hill attempted five shots and finished with 11 points.
“We know what a good player (he) is, and we always want to limit his ability to touch the ball and keep him off the glass,” Rice said.
The one player Gorman wasn’t able to contain was 6-foot-7-inch Clark post player Antwon Jackson. He finished with 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting and pulled down 13 rebounds.
“I was really impressed with the way Antwon played,” Rice said. “He’s really doing a great job.”
Will McClendon, Noah Taitz and Chance Michels each added 12 points for Gorman, which made 25 of 43 shots (58.1 percent).
Frankie Collins added 14 points and three assists for the Chargers.
“We came into the game knowing we had a little edge on them,” Zaon Collins said. “We couldn’t take them lightly. We just had to go play our game.”