Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016 | 10:30 p.m.
The Bishop Gorman basketball team walked out of the locker room Tuesday night tied with Coronado 41-41 in a rematch of last year’s state championship game.
Gaels’ senior Chuck O’Bannon limped to the bench with his right foot in a walking boot.
Without their star teammate, Jamal Bey and Christian Popoola took things into their own hands.
Popoola drained a deep 3-pointer, then Bey stole a pass at half court and slammed home a dunk on the fast break. Bishop Gorman followed that up with another Popoola three and then two more by Bey.
The Gaels hit five of their first six 3-pointers to start the third quarter and jumped out to a 69-48 lead, then withstood a furious fourth-quarter rally by Coronado to escape with a 75-71 win.
“Jamal Bey really got us going,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “He hit a bunch of threes in a row and I thought he wasn’t going to miss.”
Bey finished with a game-high 25 points, including three key 3-pointers in the second half.
Bishop Gorman took a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter, but the Cougars used a 23-4 run to cut the lead to two with 33 seconds left in the game.
“Coronado didn’t quit and they kept coming at us,” Rice said. “They are a great team and coach (Jeff Kaufman) has done a great job. They did a heck of a job coming over to Gorman and giving us all we could handle.”
The Gaels went the first five minutes of the fourth quarter without a single point, and made only one field goal in the entire fourth quarter.
“We made 8-10 really bad mistakes on offense in the fourth quarter, and luckily we survived but it was close,” Rice said. “It’s really frustrating as a coach when you see it snow-balling and no matter what you with different lineups or calling timeouts. That momentum is a crazy thing.”
With only eight seconds left, Bey drained a pair of free throws to extend the Gaels’ lead to four and ice the game for good.
“We didn’t really listen sometimes to the plays and we really just need to focus,” Bey said. “We were just trying to run time and not keep the scoring up.”
Popoola was 11-of-12 from the charity stripe and finished with 22 points. The only other Gael in double-figures was Ryan Kiley who scored 10 points — all in the first half.
“(Kiley) did a good job cleaning up the boards and getting some put-backs,” Rice said.
Will Weems, Taieem Comeaux and Kennedy Koehler all scored 15 points apiece for Coronado.
“(Weems) is good,” Rice said. “He’s got a great little jump hook and good touch around the basket. What an addition for Coronado.”
The Cougars played Bishop Gorman much closer than they did in the state championship game last February, when they lost by 20 points.
The Gaels, though, will only improve from here when O’Bannon returns from his foot injury.
“He’s going to give you 15-25 points per night so to have one of your leaders who has been starting for three years to be out, it’s definitely a little different, especially on offense,” Rice said. “When they went on their run it would have been nice to have a steady force out there in the fourth quarter to get a big bucket when we needed it.”
Bishop Gorman isn’t as deep as in previous years. Its bench was outscored 15-4 against Coronado.
“It’s hard because (O’Bannon) is one of our main scorers, so we have to adjust and the people off the bench have to step up,” Bey said.
After losing a close game in its season opener to Santa Margarita (Calif.) the Gaels have won back-to-back games over Nevada opponents. Next up is a trip to Scottsdale, Ariz., for the HoopHall West Tournament, where they will take on the No. 1-ranked team in the country, Chino Hills (Calif.).
Rice said O’Bannon should be back in the lineup in about a week but will likely miss that game.
“It will probably make us better,” Rice said. “Playing a few games without him will probably make us better toward the middle and end of the season.”