Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 | 6:57 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Case Keefer and Ray Brewer take a look at Saturday's high school basketball game between Bishop Gorman and Findlay Prep. They also break down the Palo Verde-Centennial game.
- Local, national dignitaries in the stands to watch Findlay beat Gorman, 73-61
- Tickets remain for sold-out Findlay-Gorman game on StubHub … for $201
- Toughest ticket in town: Gorman, Findlay Prep ready for anticipated showdown
- Findlay Prep’s Anthony Bennett talks about his recruitment, will be a game-time decision against Gorman
- Link to highlights of Shabazz Muhammad’s dunk, which was selected as one of SportsCenter’s top Monday plays
- Showdown will include more than annual Gorman, Findlay Prep basketball game
- Weekly basketball picks
- High school basketball section
Findlay Prep senior forward Winston Shepard has the reputation of being one of the nation’s elite high school basketball defenders.
On Saturday, his performance in guarding the nation’s consensus top recruiting prospect solidified those claims.
Shepard served as the primary defender against Bishop Gorman High’s Shabazz Muhammad during the annual Gorman-Findlay game at Cox Pavilion, holding Muhammad scoreless in the third quarter while Findlay opened a double-digit lead in a 73-61 victory.
Muhammad finished with 19 points — including 11 in the fourth quarter — but wasn’t able to affect the game like he does seemingly every other contest. Shepard was motivated to prove he belongs mentioned in the same sentence as Muhammad when talking about the top players for the class of 2012.
“I played good defense because I took it personal,” Shepard said. “Our coach printed off some stuff and showed us what the media was saying and how people were trying to say how he is unstoppable and this and that. I just wasn’t buying into that, to be honest with you.”
Muhammad typically thrives on aggressively taking the ball to the basket, almost always attempting double-digit foul shots in averaging nearly 30 points per game. Saturday, he went to the line just twice and only made 9 of 26 field goal attempts.
A sold-out crowd of around 2,500 fans packed into the Cox Pavilion for the highly anticipated game of nationally ranked local foes, including notables such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, and UNLV coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian.
Several UNLV fans, most wearing Rebel scarlet and gray, packed the stands to get a look at Muhammad, a prized recruiting target for UNLV. Shepard, who is also being courted by UNLV, partially stole the show.
“It’s his size and speed,” Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck said. “You look at his size and ability to move. He can guard multiple positions and players. He has real great hands and can move his feet.
“He is one in a million for us,” Peck continued. “He will be sorely missed for us when he graduates.”
The 6-foot-8 Shepard, who is teammates with Muhammad on the AAU circuit with Dream Vision, usually draws the assignment of guarding the other team’s top player. He’s super athletic, and as he showed Saturday, always up to the challenge.
“He knows all of the strengths and weaknesses of (Muhammad's) game and tried to take advantage of that,” said Findlay junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who shared the duties in guarding Muhammad. “There is no question: If you ask me, I don’t think there is a better defender (in the nation) because he can guard (positions) one to five.
“He is 6-8, 6-9 and can guard every position on the floor. When you can do that, you to have him on your team.”
Findlay trailed by one point at halftime after Gorman’s Ben Carter buried a heave from beyond halfcourt to cap the Gaels’ second-quarter rally — they erased a seven-point deficit. In the locker room during the break, Peck took to the role of master motivator in getting his players ready for the final two quarters.
“This group has been great in terms of responding to motivation.,” Peck said. “It wasn’t necessarily a technical Xs and Os thing. It was more a motivation thing. (I told them) ‘Look, guess what guys, you put them in the position where they are jacked up and they have the motivation. What are you going to do to change it?’”
Findlay proceeded to hold Gorman in check during the third quarter, outscoring the Gaels 20-5 in taking the lead for good. Offensively, backcourt mates Williams-Goss and senior Dominic Artis were able to get several good looks at the basket, helping Findlay lead by 13 points entering the final quarter.
Muhammad had six straight points at one stretch of the fourth quarter to help Gorman trim its deficit to eight points, but the Gaels couldn’t overcome their shaky third quarter.
“I’m just real disappointed with our third quarter,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “We just didn’t deserve to win with the way we played in that third quarter.”
Artis had a game-high 21 points and seven assists for Findlay, Williams-Goss scored 20 and Shepard added 12 points and nine rebounds. For Gorman, Rashad Muhammad and Ben Carter scored nine points, and Rosco Allen had seven.
The hype surrounding the game hit an all-time peak this year.
Tickets sold out within days of going on sale in early January. Originally priced at $15 to $30, they were being sold Friday on Stubhub.com for up to $201. One fan purchased six tickets for $500 outside the arena a few minutes before tip-off.
It’s the fourth consecutive year the nationally ranked local powers have played, with Findlay — a team of players from around the globe that plays a national schedule — winning every meeting. Last year’s contest went to double overtime and was decided on a buzzer-beater, creating much excitement for this year’s contest.
Prior to the game, Peck attempted to get his team to relax by asking them a simple question: “I tried to give them an irrelevant question. How many stars are on the flag? 50. What do they represent? Ok, let’s go play.”