Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 | 2 a.m.
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It's a big week for high school basketball in Las Vegas with several marquee games and compelling storylines. Listen as sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer sort through all of them.
Bishop Gorman High’s Noah Robotham buried a 3-pointer from the corner, quickly hustling back on defense and not realizing the significance of his shot.
In a game of big plays, blue-chip recruiting prospects and much anticipation, it was Robotham — then a freshman — with one of the most memorable plays. He just didn’t realize how crucial his shot was, which tied the game against Findlay Prep at 83 with seconds remaining in double overtime at the sold-out Cox Pavilion during the 2011 rivalry game between the nationally respected local programs.
“To be honest, I didn’t realize the time or that we were down by three,” said Robotham, now a senior. “I thought we were down by four, but Shabazz (Muhammad) told me, “Great shot.’ Then I looked up (at the scoreboard) and realized we were tied.”
There were 2,500 people in attendance that night, and the teams put on a show, setting the table for future contests in the rivalry and cementing its status as a can’t-miss affair. Findlay hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to prevail, 86-83.
The rivalry renews at 2 p.m. Saturday at the South Point Arena, promising to feature elite prospects on both teams and a closely contested game. Findlay Prep has won every game in the series, which dates back to 2008.
In the aftermath of the back-and-forth 2011 game, and with each team having major UNLV recruiting targets, the 2012 contest was arguably the most-hyped high school game in Las Vegas history. Tickets were sold at online broker sites for $200, it was scouted by major college coaches and local dignitaries were front and center.
That forced organizers to move the game starting in 2013 to the South Point. It’s called the Findlay Big City Showcase and includes a noon game featuring Liberty and Arbor View highs.
“For the city of Las Vegas and the fans, it’s great,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “Some people who don’t go to many games, this is something they put on their calendars. It’s exciting. It’s something our players look forward to being part of.”
Findlay Prep is housed in Henderson, taking players from all over the world and playing for a national high school championship each year. They don’t have local players and don’t play for a state championship.
The Pilots' schedule this season includes games in Ohio, Massachusetts, Canada, Texas, Tennessee and Hawaii. The South Point is a 10-minute drive from their campus.
“Only having to go down the street to play a high-caliber basketball team is music to our ears,” Findlay Prep coach Jerome Williams said. “But it’s never going to be a home game for us. Historically, 90 percent of the fans there will be cheering for Bishop Gorman. Our Findlay Prep fan base is growing. Even though our players aren’t from here, they are doing charity work and helping others in the city. People are starting to notice.”
Locals have always noticed Findlay’s talented roster.
The Pilots, which won three national championships in the past five seasons, have had seven McDonald’s All-American players. Four former players are in the NBA — Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett with Cleveland, Cory Joseph with San Antonio and Avery Bradley with Boston. All have played in the annual game against Gorman.
Findlay’s roster is again loaded with major college prospects, including Kansas commit Kelly Oubre and Arizona commit Craig Victor. Senior shooting guard Rashad Vaughn might be the biggest attraction, though. Vaughn, the nation’s No. 7 overall recruiting prospect according to rivals.com, is considering UNLV.
“Most of the locals are aware of Bishop Gorman’s long-standing history and state titles. They are really the dominant basketball force in this town,” Williams said. “But some of the local people here are starting to learn about Findlay Prep and the national accolades our team has. That sets the stage for some epic high school basketball.”
Gorman also has a few five-stars recruits UNLV is courting in 2015 — post players Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmeran.
But for this game, it’s not always the marquee players who rise to the occasion. Robotham was just a freshman reserve two months into his high school career when he first played Findlay. And after his shot, Findlay bench player Kevin Kaspar drained the game-winner as the clock expired. It was his only attempt of the night — a shot that helped bring the rivalry to new heights.
While they haven’t equaled the anticipation in the past two seasons — two years ago, Findlay easily handled Gorman in front of a packed crowd; last year, the crowd was light because it conflicted with college football’s national title game — you never know what’s going to happen or which player will make a name for themselves.
“Findlay has the best guys every year. Same thing here at Bishop Gorman,” Robotham said. “It’s great competition with two of the premiere teams in the state of Nevada.”