Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 | 10:39 p.m.
The Clark High basketball team has been led all season by mostly the same three players: Seniors Jalen Hill (Oklahoma) and Antwon Jackson (Arkansas State), and sophomore standout Frankie Collins.
For as good as the trio has been in helping the Chargers to a 23-4 record and retaining their spot among the city’s elite programs, taking the next step by dethroning Bishop Gorman for the state championship isn’t a three-player job — no matter how great those three players have performed.
That’s what makes a sequence of plays in the third quarter tonight against Foothill in the Desert Region semifinals so important for Clark coach Chad Beeten. Clark turned a tightly contested first half, when it led by just six points at halftime, into a comfortable double-digit lead thanks to a 29-point scoring outburst fueled by sophomore Cameron Kimble and senior Carlos Allen.
Clark downed Foothill 88-67 to earn a spot in next week’s state tournament. More important, with Kimble and Allen each scoring 13 points, the Chargers developed some confidence for their next game, Thursday against rival Gorman in the Desert finals. Even though both are state-tournament bound, the game is vitally important for seeding and, of course, for the regional championship banner.
“Cam and Carlos had to step up, and they did,” Beeten said. “They made some good plays. ... We just have a very good group of guys who have good chemistry together. Nobody is selfish and they like to play together.”
Kimble doesn’t consider himself a secondary option in the attack. Allen feels the same way. Rather, they are vital parts of a team — just as vital as those bluechip recruits — with a legitimate chance to beat seven-time defending state champion Gorman.
“Anything I can to do help my team and help the dynamic of the team,” Kimble said. “It’s great learning from Jalen Hill, Antwon and Frankie in practice.”
Clark nearly knocked off Gorman in the regular season finale, but lost in double overtime. The defeat could have been demoralizing. But Beeten says it has motivated his group.
In a group text that night, players seemed confident that later in the season — whether it’s Thursday in the regional finals or next week at state — they’ll finally earn a victory over their nemesis.
“I am seeing all of the guys (message) back and forth, ‘We got this. We can get this done,’” Beeten said. “They are ready.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt having the city’s best two seniors in Hill and Jackson at forward, and the confident Collins — who grabbed a Kansas scholarship offer this week — organizing the offense at point guard. The trio combined for about 60 points against Foothill.
Gorman survived a scare in the other semifinal, where junior Noah Taitz drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 70-67 victory against Coronado. It’s not the first time during the Gaels' championship streak that they escaped in the final seconds. The most notable other time was in 2017 against Clark, when Gorman erased an eight-point deficit in the final two minutes to steal the title.