Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 | 11:08 p.m.
There would be no classic finish this year.
Findlay Prep made sure there wouldn’t be a suspenseful ending Monday at the South Point Arena during its annual basketball game against Bishop Gorman High, outscoring the Gaels 21-7 in the third quarter to turn a five-point halftime lead into a comfortable double-digit advantage and 65-45 victory.
This game didn’t follow the pattern of the past two seasons — a pair of contests that transformed the annual rivalry into the most anticipated high school event of the year. Two years ago, the game went back and forth before Findlay prevailed in double overtime; last year they sold out the Cox Pavilion in a game with multiple All-Americans and much hype.
This year, there was little drama. Sure, college coaches such as UNLV’s Dave Rice, UCLA’s Ben Howland and BYU’s Dave Rose were front-and-center to observe the long line of top-tier college prospects on both nationally respected teams.
But, with the exception of a 7-0 scoring burst by Gorman at the end of the second quarter to trim a double-digit deficit to five points by halftime, the game didn’t pack as much excitement as past seasons.
Findlay, the nation’s No. 1 ranked team by USA Today, made sure Gorman wouldn’t mount a comeback with a dominating third quarter. The Pilots’ 21 points in the quarter were four less than they scored in the entire first half.
“We just felt like we didn’t play as good as we could have played in the first half,” said Allerik Freeman, the Findlay senior guard and UCLA commit who had a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter. “We knew we had to tighten it up in the second half to the best of our ability, on the defensive end first and executing on offense.”
On Saturday in a 76-51 victory against Redemption Christian of New York, the Pilots used a 21-10 scoring outburst in the third quarter to essentially put the game away. Coach Todd Simon couldn’t take credit for making halftime adjustments, however, saying his team needed a few quarters both nights to get into the flow of the game.
“We thought we could jump over people in the first half,” Simon said. “In the second half we decided we have to put some lumber on some people and did a better job of that (rebounding).”
UNLV recruit Chris Wood led the way for Findlay with a team-high 19 points, including a 30-second stretch in the fourth quarter when the 6-foot-10 forward drained a 3-pointer, had a pair of blocked shots and knocked down two free throws. He was a perfect 8-for-8 from the line for the game.
Stanford Robinson, an Indiana commit, added 18 points for the Pilots, and Nigel Williams-Goss scored eight.
Rashad Muhammad had a game-high 22 points to lead Bishop Gorman, scoring the Gaels’ initial nine points of the game to give them an early one-point lead midway through the first quarter. Gorman, though, couldn’t overcome its offense stalling in the third quarter.
“We played well for three quarters,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “The third quarter, we couldn’t score and they got to the line several times. It was tough to recover from a third quarter like that.”
Gorman sophomore Stephen Zimmerman, a major recruiting target for UNLV and top college programs, had a solid game on both sides of the court. He’s credited defensively for altering or blocking several Findlay shots, and also scored eight points and dished out a pair of assists in transition.
Each of Gorman’s three defeats this season have come against teams ranked nationally in the top 20.
“I like our team,” Rice said. “We are tough. We stayed together. We played hard until the end. Fourth quarter, they beat us 19-18.”