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Still the team to beat: Gorman basketball wins showdown with Clark

Gorman-Clark basketball

Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

Bishop Gorman’s Chuck O’Bannon Jr. reacts after hitting a game-clinching 3-pointer for the Gaels in a 70-63 victory against host Clark on Jan. 3, 2017.

2017: Bishop Gorman vs Clark

Clark Chargers forward Jalen Hill (21) is introduced as a starter against the visiting Bishop Gorman Gaels before a game at Clark High School Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. Launch slideshow »
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With two minutes remaining, the Bishop Gorman High basketball team was reeling.

The Clark Chargers had battled back from an eight-point deficit to cut the lead to two, and a deafening roar echoed through the gym at Clark High School.

That’s when Gaels’ senior Chuck O’Bannon Jr., a Southern California commit, gathered himself and calmly drained a 3-pointer that brought the gym to a dead silence.

“It was nice to silence the crowd and remind our team that we have the lead and this is our game,” O’Bannon said.

Five-time defending large-school state champion Bishop Gorman reminded the rest of Nevada they are still the team to beat tonight, knocking off the three-time defending 3A state champions 70-63.

“Although we pulled away by seven it really came down to the wire with one or two possessions deciding it,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “That’s kind of been the story of our season so far. We’ve had some that haven’t gone our way but luckily tonight it did go our way.”

After scoring only three points in the first half, O’Bannon put the Gaels on his shoulders with 14 second-half points including 4-of-5 from 3-point range.

“He got going in the second half,” Rice said. “He struggled in the first half to get his groove, and then I knew when he came out and hit those two shots that we would have a good shot tonight.”

O’Bannon finished with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists before fouling out in the final minutes.

“(Clark) actually grabbed the lead there for a couple minutes and I thought about calling a timeout but Chuck hit a three right there and settled us down,” Rice said.

It was Bishop Gorman’s 70th straight win against Nevada opponents dating back to 2012.

“That’s a serious streak for any high school to have not lost in town,” Gorman senior Christian Popoola said. “Every Nevada team we play is so personal and it’s serious every time.”

Popoola iced the game with clutch free throws, going 6-of-7 from the line in the final minute.

“If you shoot enough in the game you eventually have to get warm and hit them,” said Popoola, who led Goran with 20 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals. “I’m used to being a good free throw shooter and my team kept giving it to me and trusting me so I couldn’t let them down.”

The teams’ performances from the free throw line may have ultimately determined the game. Clark went just 10-of-21 from the line. Bishop Gorman also outscored Clark 30-3 from behind the 3-point arc.

Trey Woodbury had a big night for Clark with 20 points, three rebounds and three assists, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 13 turnovers the Chargers committed.

“We survived and live to fight another day,” Popoola said. “With getting a win here, next time they have to come to our house so we are that much more confident about it.”

The two will square off at Bishop Gorman on Jan. 31, but it likely won’t be the last time they face each other this season. The teams should also run into each other in the playoffs.

“Hats off to Clark they’re a really good team,” Rice said. “They’re going to win a lot of games and I know we’re going to see them at least once more and maybe twice. You never know, maybe even three times the way this is set up.”

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