It’s seems only fitting that Bishop Gorman and Centennial face each other once again in Friday night’s Sunset Region championship game at 7 p.m. at Durango High School.
A year ago the two Southwest League rivals played four times including in the State Division I title game at the Orleans Arena won by the Gaels, 69-43.
They’ll meet again for third time this season and the second time within a week tonight with a berth to the NIAA State Division I championship beginning Thursday at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno on the line.
Bishop Gorman advanced with an impressive 74-46 thumping of Durango in Thursday’s semifinals while Centennial rolled past Northwest League champ Arbor View, 74-60.
“It’s been a battle with them the last couple of years,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said of playing Centennial. “They know what they’re up against and we know what they’ve got. It’s a really good program and it’s obviously a competitive game for the fans. It’s always a challenge for us. It’s going to be a tough one.”
Bishop Gorman (26-4) defeated Centennial (25-3) last Friday, 80-64, to spoil the Bulldogs’ Senior Night, building a 45-26 halftime lead and holding off several late runs by the home team. The Gaels also scored a 73-50 home victory over Centennial on Jan. 29.
It’s a dream matchup for local recruitaholics who can watch three of the nation’s elite prospects — Bishop Gorman’s 7-0 Stephen Zimmerman and 6-10 Chase Jeter and Centennial 6-5 freshman sensation Troy Brown – in one game. All have already been offered by UNLV.
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Another top prospect to keep an eye on, 6-5 junior forward Nick Blair, had a game-high 18 points, including three dunks, to help lead the Gaels past Durango in the semifinals.
Jeter (14 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks) and point guard Noah Robotham (14 points, 7 assists, 4 steals) also scored in double-figures while Zimmerman had nine points and 11 rebounds.
The Blazers stayed with the Gaels for the first 12 minutes, trailing just 24-23 after an Alex Arias layup midway through the second quarter. But Jeter started a 31-4 run over the next 10 minutes with a dunk and Gorman cruised home for the easy win.
In the nightcap, the Bulldogs got strong performances from their two senior leaders, forward Eddie Davis and guard Khalil Thompson, to knock off the Aggies.
After jumping out to an early 15-14 lead over the Aggies, it looked like Centennial might be in trouble after Brown was forced to sit out the entire second quarter with foul trouble.
“When Troy got into foul trouble, we knew we needed to step up our play,” said Thompson. “It’s hard to replace a star like Troy but fortunately enough for us, we were able to put together a strong second quarter in his absence.”
Davis led the Bulldogs with 22 points, including six 3-pointers, while Thompson added 21 points. Brown finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
UC Santa Barbara commit Justin Burks, despite one of his worst shooting nights of the season, still managed to pour in 16 points for Arbor View while senior shooting guard Terrell Butler led the Aggies with 19.
JUSTIN BURKS PHOTO BY ROBERT VENDELOTTI