Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
On most plays, the speedy playmaker would race past a Gorman defender on the way to the basket, where he was frequently fouled or converted a layup.
So, with the game tied and only a few seconds left in double overtime, a majority of the capacity crowd of about 2,500 fans at Cox Pavilion rose to their feet assuming it would be Kabongo taking Findlay Prep’s final shot.
However, during a timeout, reserve guard Kevin Kaspar provided another option.
“Before the play, I told Myck that if he can’t beat the defense, I would pop out,” Kaspar said. “I promised him I would hit the shot. I’m so happy we won.”
Kabongo let the clock wind down to less than 10 seconds before he started dribbling toward the basket. He immediately drew a double team, before dishing to a wide-open Kaspar at the top of the 3-point arch.
Kaspar calmly drained the 3-pointer as the clock expired to give Findlay an 89-86 victory. The Findlay players, who have grown accustomed to winning by lopsided scores, stormed the court in celebration.
It was Kaspar’s only attempt of the night.
“He looked at me in the eye and said he was going to hit the shot,” Kabongo said. “We all knew they were going to collapse on me. He picked his spot and got the open shot. I had no doubt he was going to hit it.”
The game will go down as a classic, especially considering both teams are loaded with highly regarded college prospects.
UCLA’s Ben Howland, Washington's Lorenzo Romar and UNLV’s Lon Kruger were three of an estimated 15 to 20 college coaches in attendance.
When it was all said and done, a combined six players fouled out, there were four lead changes and six ties in the fourth quarter and both overtimes, and each of the team’s star players put on a show.
Kabongo, a Texas-commit, led Findlay with 26 points. Gorman junior Shabazz Muhammad had a game-high 33 points, including a pair of free throws with 18 seconds remaining in regulation to even the game at 71 and force overtime.
In the first overtime, Muhammad opened by hitting four straight free throws to give Gorman a 75-72 lead. But the Gaels missed three foul shots in the final two minutes, and Kabongo scored six points in the first overtime to tie the game at 78.
In the second overtime, UNLV-commit Nigel Williams-Goss tallied eight consecutive points to help Findlay take an 86-83 lead. But Gorman freshman Noah Robotham buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 31 seconds remaining to even the score at 86 and set up the Kaspar’s heroics.
“From a Hollywood standpoint, you couldn’t have scripted this any better,” Findlay coach Mike Peck said. “From a coach's standpoint, I didn’t like it. But the fans got their money’s worth. It was an unbelievable matchup.”
This was the fourth straight year national power Findlay, which is housed at Henderson International School in Anthem, has played two-time defending state champion Gorman. Findlay has won every year — barely.
Gorman led by as many as nine points in the first quarter in showing it can play with the nation’s elite. Findlay is ranked in the top 10 of several polls and has captured the last two ESPN National High School Invitational titles.
Gorman lost its fifth game of the year, with all of the setbacks coming against highly respected national opponents. It fell 79-63 Monday to St. Patrick of New Jersey on ESPNU, and St. Patrick is expected to be No. 1 when they next polls are released.
Hanging tough against Findlay can be viewed as an accomplishment. Gorman players, however, aren’t looking for moral victories.
“This game is going to help us a lot. Findlay Prep is a really good team,” Muhammad said. “But we are still a young team. We’ll bounce back and get some wins.”
Muhammad, a consensus top-five overall recruit for the class of 2012, was virtually the Gaels' lone option late in the game. Rosco Allen, a top-30 prospect, was one of four Gorman players to foul out, meaning Muhammad and a cast of reserves nearly upset Findlay.
“I think it will give us some confidence moving forward,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “We are disappointed right now. That is our fifth loss of the year, and they have all been to really good teams. We ran out of guys, basically, and they made a really good call at the end.”
Ben Carter added 17 points for Gorman and Allen finished with 10.