Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 | 10:58 p.m.
Ray Brewer and Case Keefer look over the high school basketball playoff picture, and debate whether any major upsets will occur and which teams would be most likely to pull them off.
One half of the most anticipated high school basketball game of the year locked in without incident in the Sunset Region semifinals Thursday night at Legacy High.
Bishop Gorman never faltered in building a 48-point halftime lead that turned into an 84-47 victory over Desert Oasis behind 16 points from Washington-committed standout Jamal Bey.
The other piece of the puzzle took more effort to fall into place. Gorman’s archrival, Clark, stumbled into an early 17-4 deficit against Northwest division champion Faith Lutheran that put the pressure on Chargers’ star Jalen Hill to orchestrate a comeback.
Clark ultimately escaped with a 58-50 win over Faith Lutheran behind Hill’s 25 points and 13 rebounds.
“I just knew we had to advance and play Gorman on Saturday,” Hill said. “That’s what I needed to do, and we had a great team win and played well at the end.”
The Gaels and Chargers will reconvene at 6 p.m. Saturday at Legacy to face off for the fourth time this season. Gorman has won each of the first three meetings, by a total of 20 points, but the Sunset championship game is the only one that truly matters.
The winner will clinch a spot in the four-team state tournament next week in Reno; the losers’ season will end unceremoniously.
“We’re going to have to compete harder, play harder, be better,” Clark coach Chad Beeten said. “We’re playing a better team, so we’re going to have to do it all to win.”
Clark came into the year with virtually its entire roster returning, ranking first in preseason polls after beating Gorman once in 2017 and coming a monumental collapse away from a second victory in the state championship game. Those ratings have turned out to be misguided to this point, with the Gaels proving as much once again in eviscerating the Diamondbacks.
Gorman shot 53 percent from the floor, including 11-for-22 on three-pointers with senior D.J. Howe and junior Adrik Lazarou not missing on any of their combined five long-range attempts. Sophomore big man Isaiah Cottrell was a load in the paint, chipping in 11 points and eight rebounds on limited action.
It was more of a two-man show for Clark. To climb out of the early hole, Beeten emphasized running the offense through Hill and fellow junior Antwon Jackson.
Jackson had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and scored in two of Clark’s first three possessions of the second half to give the Chargers their first lead and control of the game. Hill assisted on the second bucket, and Jackson later returned the favor when the Crusaders began doubling him.
“We’ve been playing together since seventh grade, we’ve known each other since fifth grade, so we just have a great chemistry and bond," Hill said. "You can’t really break it.”
Despite going 15-for-56 from the field, Faith Lutheran hung around largely behind timely shooting from junior Brevin Walter and senior Dalton Kincaid — who combined for 27 points — and tenacious rebounding by Elijah Kothe, who grabbed 14 boards. The game was tied at 49 with two minutes to go before Hill drove the lane for a layup, and gave Clark the lead for good.
Hill was also fouled the next time down the court, and hit both free throws for the Chargers to pull away.
“I think Faith did a lot more things, outcompeted us, played harder than us," Beeten said. "We made some plays, made some free throws down the stretch and fortunately it was survive and advance.”
Hill said the Chargers will forget the history and bring the same mentality into Saturday’s game against Gorman.
“Honestly, I just want to go to state and we have to beat them on Saturday,” Hill said. “It’s win or go home.”