Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 | 11:03 p.m.
All the ingredients for an upset were present when Clark hosted Bishop Gorman on Thursday night. The Chargers’ gymnasium was rocking, their superstar was unstoppable, and Gorman made costly mistakes down the stretch.
And, maybe most important, Clark was fully motivated, still looking for payback for a devastating last-second loss to Gorman in the 2017 state championship game.
On paper, the circumstances should have added up to a Clark victory and an on-court celebration after the final buzzer. Instead, Bishop Gorman showed all the right stuff, persevering through two overtime periods to finally lock down a 74-68 decision.
Sophomore Zaon Collins was the hero for the Gaels, scoring 11 of his 18 points in the overtime periods to push Gorman over the top.
Bishop Gorman led 21-11 after the first quarter, but Clark used an 18-4 run to take a 29-27 lead at the half. The Chargers pushed the lead as high as 37-30, but Gorman stormed back and regained the lead late in the third quarter. Noah Taitz splashed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Gaels a 46-42 advantage heading into the fourth.
Senior forward Jalen Hill kept Clark in the game by scoring 23 points in regulation on perfect 11-of-11 shooting, but the Chargers still found themselves trailing, 52-48, with less than 90 seconds to play. A layup from Vinni Veikalas cut the deficit in half, and Gorman left the door open by missing the front end of a 1-and-1 on the ensuing possession.
Clark sophomore Frankie Collins tied the game with a driving layup, and Gorman held onto the ball for the final possession. Zaon Collins was fouled on a drive with 4.3 seconds left, but the hard contact left him with a large knot under his eye; the referees ruled that he had to sub out and receive medical attention, so Gorman was allowed to select a replacement shooter for the free throws.
Both free throws bounced off the rim, and the game went into overtime. Bishop Gorman missed its final six free throws in regulation, including the front ends of two 1-and-1’s.
Zaon Collins said he was indeed shaken up by the foul.
“It was a shock,” he said. “I knew I was hurt because usually I hop right up and shake it off, but I knew that he got me pretty good because it took me a minute to get up.”
When asked how much he wanted to take the potential game-winning free throws, Collins didn’t hesitate.
“Really bad,” he said. “Like, really bad. I knew I was going to make them. I had the confidence to make them.”
Zaon Collins rejoined his team on the court for the start of the first OT, and after being denied a chance to end the game with his own free throws in regulation he appeared to take out his frustrations on the opposition.
Clark went up 59-55, but Zaon Collins helped force two consecutive turnovers to reverse the momentum. He knocked down two free throws with 36.3 seconds to play to send the game into the second extra period.
That’s when Zaon Collins really took charge. Gorman led 63-60 when he exploded for eight straight points to put the game away. First he scored on a spinning drive and layup, then he hit a pair of free throws, then he drove through the teeth of the defense for an and-1 finish. He made that free throw as well, putting the Gaels up 70-60 to essentially seal the game. (Clark fouled intentionally on the next possession and Collins made 1-of-2 from the line to account for the eighth consecutive point.)
In the end, Gorman made just 22-of-40 from the free-throw line and only got three points from 5-star junior forward Isaiah Cottrell, but it didn’t matter because Zaon Collins came up clutch.
“He picks his spots,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “Zaon is OK scoring zero, two, four points, or when he needs to take over he’ll take over a game. He picks his spots, but he’s the ultimate point guard. He does what he needs to do to win games.”
Hill finished with a game-high 27 points. Taitz tallied 17.