It wasn’t the way you’d like to close out a victory, but after flying 2,000 miles and across two time zones, Rainier Beach (Wash.) will gladly take the end result.
The Vikings saw their 18-point second-half lead erased late in the fourth quarter, but managed to recover and hold on for a 74-71 victory over Bishop Gorman (Nev.) Thursday in the opening game of the 2016 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions quarterfinal round.
“To be honest with you, sometimes it’s better to be lucky,” said Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea. “(The game) got close because (we weren’t) valuing the possession of the ball, not being aware of the time clock, things like that.”
After Rainier Beach made one of two free throws to take a 72-71 lead with 17 seconds remaining, Bishop Gorman committed a turnover on its next possession.
The Vikings added two Sam Cunliffe free throws to extend their lead to 74-71. A last-second desperation 3-pointer by Bishop Gorman’s Christian Popoola was off the mark at the buzzer.
“It’s far away from home. We really prepare for this,” Cunliffe said. “We came out in the first half and felt like we played the way we had practiced. Second half wasn’t what we wanted, but we got the win, and that’s why I’m happy. Just getting the win as all that matters to me.”
In a game featuring Division I-caliber players on both sides and Division I coaches watching courtside, Bishop Gorman’s Charles O’Bannon Jr. scored a game-high 31 on 10-for-23 shooting from the field. The son of former UCLA star Charles O’Bannon, O’Bannon Jr. – a 6’5” wing – was 4-for-8 on 3-pointers and added eight rebounds with current UCLA and former Missouri State coach Steve Alford watching.
Zach Collins, a 7’0” senior and Gonzaga commit, overcame a slow start in the first half to finish with 22 poinds and a game-high 14 rebounds for Bishop Gorman.
Cunliffe, an Arizona State commit, led Rainier Beach with 26 points and was 16-for-19 at the free throw line.
The 19 free throw attempts tied a tournament record, held by four other players including current Washington Wizard Bradley Beal. The 16 made free throws were one shy of tying the tournament record, which is co-held by Beal and Christ the King's Ervin Walker.
Cunliffe's teammate, Kevin Porter added 19 points, 15 coming in the first half when he shot 5-for-5 from 3-point range. Porter is ranked by at least one publication as Washington’s top sophomore player.
Bishop Gorman trailed 45-28 at halftime, then outscored Rainier Beach by nine (24-15) in the third quarter. The Gaels started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run and later tied the game 64-all on a tip-in by O’Bannon.
“The thing I was most disappointed with was the letdown on defense,” said Bethea, after the Vikings gave up 43 points in the second half. “We just… hung on. But it’s still a good win for us to start this tournament.”
Rainier Beach went 23-4 last season and began this season ranked No. 23 nationally (Fab 50). Bishop Gorman has won four straight state titles in Nevada.
Rainier Beach plays Oak Hill (Va.) in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday. Bishop Gorman plays Bolivar in the consolation side at 4:30 p.m.
Bishop Gorman (Nev.), Rainier Beach (Wa.)
Bishop Gorman 14 14 24 19 — 71
Rainier Beach 21 24 15 14 — 74
Bishop Gorman – Charles O’Bannon Jr. 31, Zach Collins 22, Byron Frohnen 6, Christian Popoola Jr. 6, Ryan Kiley 3, Jamal Bey 3
Rainier Beach – Sam Cunliffe 26, Kevin Porter 19, N’Keil Nelson 10, Kahlil Shabazz 7, Keith Smith 6, Marquis Gurski 6
Oak Hill cruises past Bolivar
Bolivar needed to make more shots and have a lot of other things go its way to stay within reach of national power Oak Hill.
Fifteen turnovers and a 4-for-19 performance on 3-point attempts doomed the Liberators, as Oak Hill (23-1) prevailed 73-38 in the second quarterfinal game of Thursday’s 2016 Bass Pro Tournament of Champions.
“Oak Hill is just a phenomenal team,” said Bolivar’s Brandon Emmert, who led the Liberators with 11 points. “You can never play bad against them; you have to play well the whole game. We knew we were going to have to make shots. We knew we’d have to make a lot of shots from the perimeter. I was proud of my team for fighting until the end.”
Oak Hill – which has a roster full of future Division I talent – had seven players score at least 6 points, led by junior Lindell Wigginton’s 20 points. Matt Coleman scored 11 and Mario Kegler added 10 points for the Warriors, who out-rebounded Bolivar 39-21.
An Emmert layup got Bolivar within 21-13 early in the second quarter, but Oak Hill scored nine straight and eventually led 44-19 by halftime. The Liberators (10-2) never got closer than 20 in the second half.
“What you can’t see is their size and their strength until you get out on the floor with them,” said Bolivar coach Robby Hoegh. “They cover so much ground. You may think you have an open shot in the half-court against them, but they’re there to contest it.”
Bolivar shot 13-for-43 from the field overall. Conley Garrison led the Liberators with 8 rebounds while Johnny Scott had a team-high five assists.
Bolivar plays Bishop Gorman (Nev.) in the consolation round at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“When you play against a team like (Oak Hill), it should give you confidence and I think it will,” Hoegh said. “We’re encouraged and we get to come back tomorrow and play again.”
Oak Hill 73, Bolivar 38
Oak Hill 19 25 15 14 — 73
Bolivar 9 10 14 5 — 38
Oak Hill – Lindell Wigginton 20, Matt Coleman 11, Mario Kegler 10, Braxton Key 7, Devontae Shuler 6, Montez Mathis 6, Khadim Sy 6, Kenny Nwuba 4, Ty-shon Alexander 3
Bolivar – Brandon Emmert 11, Bryce Krueger 8, John Michael Cates 5, Jacks Pitts 5, Conley Garrison 5, Johnny Scott 4