Muhammad helps Gorman boys thwart late Sierra Vista rally

With a Sierra Vista player shadowing Shabazz Muhammad in the second half, the Bishop Gorman coaching staff told its star to concentrate on rebounding.

It turned out that the points took care of themselves.

Muhammad finished with 38 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, as the host Gaels held off a furious Sierra Vista comeback for a 90-80 Southwest League victory Thursday night.

"They were (in a) box-and-one, and they had a guy on me at all times, so I just tried to rebound the ball and pass the ball and get guys open," Muhammad said.

He had two huge offensive rebounds in the final 2:28 after the Mountain Lions had erased a 20-point deficit.

Maiscei Grier hit two free throws with 2:44 left to put Sierra Vista up 72-71.

But Muhammad answered with a rebound dunk and completed the three-point play to give Gorman (19-5, 14-0 Southwest) the lead again.

After the Mountain Lions (20-5, 10-4) tied it at 76 on a three-point play by Xavier Rogers, Muhammad again had a follow slam and completed a three-point play, and the Gaels didn’t trail again.

"He got a couple big put-back dunks with fouls there," Gorman coach Grant Rice said. "Those were big plays."

The Gaels led 59-39 with 1:51 to go in the third quarter before Grier and Viko Noma’aea led a Sierra Vista comeback.

Grier and Noma’aea scored 16 points over the next four minutes to help cut Gorman’s lead to single digits.

"Sierra Vista hit some big jump shots," Rice said. "We got a little complacent on defense, and Maiscei and Viko showed why they are two of the best players in the city."

Rogers, a reserve point guard, helped out with nine points and three assists in the fourth quarter.

But Muhammad and Ben Carter combined to make 18 of 20 free throws in the fourth quarter to help the Gaels hold on.

"Those free throws are so important," Muhammad said. "Me and Ben down the stretch were making a lot of free throws, and I think that’s what sealed the game."

Carter had 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists and six blocked shots.

"Ben is just getting better and better," Rice said. "It took him a little while to get going this year, but he’s really, really adjusted and come into his own."

Noma’aea had 28 points and five rebounds, and Grier scored 24, including 12 in the fourth quarter. Rogers added 11 points for the Mountain Lions.

Gorman plays Long Beach Poly at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2 (31). Poly is undefeated and ranked third in the nation by USA Today.

"Maybe this is what we needed," Rice said. "Going into a big game Saturday, it’s probably a good thing to have a wake-up call."

Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at dseiters@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4587.

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