Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Feb. 15, 2013 | 12:20 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer fill out their brackets for the Sunset and Sunrise regional tournaments.
Attention to “Ocean's Thirteen” and Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez: You now have company in the annals of most enthralling trilogies in Las Vegas over the last decade.
The Bishop Gorman and Centennial basketball teams will meet again Friday night. The third matchup between the two best Division 1 high school basketball teams became official when Gorman breezed past Palo Verde 71-55 in the Sunset regional semifinals at Durango High Thursday night.
“We’re excited to play them again for the third time,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said after the game. “It’s nice to have them in our league. We haven’t had the chance to play Centennial much over the years but we’ve always admired their program and what they’ve done.”
The Gaels, a team that’s now won 92 straight games against local competition, may have finally met their match in the Bulldogs. Gorman beat Centennial 79-71 in each of the first two games this season, but both were instant classics.
Centennial led at the end of the first three quarters in the first game before getting outscored by 11 points in the final eight minutes. The Bulldogs then took the Gaels into double overtime in the rematch two weeks later.
“I think we let the hype get to us,” center Stephen Zimmerman said of the first two games. “We know they’re a great team, know the (Allen) twins are really good. We need to put our focus on them.”
If Zimmerman plays like he did against Palo Verde, Centennial may have no counter. One of the nation’s top sophomores had 17 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks despite playing limited minutes after the opening quarter-and-a-half.
The Gaels were able to rest Zimmerman after he sparked a 22-2 run by getting virtually every rebound in his vicinity early. He had eight points and nine rebounds at the end of the first quarter.
“Zimm was dominant — defensively with blocks and we really tried to force the ball into the post,” Rice said. “Between Zim and Chase Jeter, I thought they both did a great job tonight.”
Jeter joined Zimmerman’s double-double club with 10 points and 10 rebounds of his own.
But Rashad Muhammad was Zimmerman’s primary co-conspirator. The senior had a game-high 22 points, nailing three three-point shots during the first-half run and scoring several times in transition to give Gorman as much as a 25-point lead.
“We knew they’d come out and give a big effort to start the game,” Rice said. “We wanted to make sure over those first three or four minutes, we controlled the tempo and stayed even. Once we got through that and that momentum kind of dropped, we were able to get some steals, some rebounds, some fast breaks and Rashad got hot.”
By the time Palo Verde’s Eris Winder — 14 points and six assists — and Travis Gondrezick — 12 points and five rebounds — heated up, it was much too late.
The Gaels out-rebounded the Panthers by a jaw-dropping 43-18 margin. If Gorman can follow the script it completed against Palo Verde in the regional final, Zimmerman thinks the third feature with Centennial should end the same way as the first two.
“We’ve got to start off strong just like we did in this game,” Zimmerman said. “We just can’t take them lightly.”