JESSE GRANGER / LAS VEGAS SUN
Findlay Prep players celebrate after beating Bishop Gorman at the South Point Arena on Jan. 21, 2017.
Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 | 9:36 p.m.
In the third quarter of a back-and-forth basketball game between the Findlay Prep Pilots and Bishop Gorman Gaels, Findlay Prep senior P.J. Washington barreled towards the basket at full speed.
As he jumped, Bishop Gorman’s Chuck O’Bannon Jr. grabbed him by the arms to prevent the bucket and Washington came crashing to the court. Just as quickly, Washington sprung to his feet and headed towards O’Bannon before being restrained by his teammates.
Players and coaches from both teams exchanged words and Findlay Prep’s coach, and Washington’s father, Paul Washington, was called for a technical foul.
The Pilots and Gaels might not play in the same league, or even in the same classification, but the annual game between the two Southern Nevada powers is usually intense.
P.J. Washington used the emotion to fuel him down the stretch, as he led Findlay Prep to a 78-72 overtime win Saturday night at the South Point Arena.
“I’ve known Chuck for (awhile) now,” P.J. Washington said. “He’s my brother on and off the floor, but on the floor we go at it and we went at it tonight and we both played great.”
The two McDonalds All-Americans battled on nearly every possession, trading buckets and smack talk as they followed each other around the court.
P.J. Washington, who is committed to Kentucky, scored a game-high 25 points while adding 14 rebounds and six assists, but his effort on the defensive end was the difference maker for Findlay Prep.
“Once O’Bannon got on a roll P.J. said, ‘Let me guard him dad, I got him,’” Paul Washington said. “From that point on he guarded him and it didn’t matter how many fouls he had and that’s what you want. You have a kid that is 6-foot-9 out here guarding one of the best (shooting guards) in the country and did a halfway decent job.”
O’Bannon finished 16 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for the Gaels, but the USC commit was held scoreless in overtime.
“I had to guard him,” P.J. Washington said. “He was killing our other guys so I had to step up and do it, and I felt like I did a great job.”
Bishop Gorman led 51-46 at the start of the fourth quarter, largely due to Noah Taitz’s shooting from behind the 3-point arc. The freshman guard hit five 3-pointers for 15 points.
With 15 seconds left in regulation, O’Bannon hit 1-of-2 from the line to tie the game 69-69. The Pilots had multiple shots to win the game in the waning seconds but were unable to convert.
In overtime, P.J. Washington continually drove into the paint and the Pilots prevailed.
“I told our guys at the buzzer that we have the momentum and we just have to get back to doing what we do and play our game,” Paul Washington said. “That’s why we play our tough schedule so that when it comes to the end of January we are built for games like this.”
Lamine Diane scored 17 points for Findlay Prep and Jamal Bey led the Gaels with 17 points.
With the win Findlay Prep now regains “The Shoe” trophy after losing to Bishop Gorman last year. The Pilots won the first six games of the series, but the teams have traded wins over the last four years.
“I’m new from a head coaching standpoint but I’ve been around the rivalry for three years with P.J. so I know it’s a big deal to the state of Nevada and a big deal to both schools,” Paul Washington said. “Bishop Gorman is a first class organization and we needed this win.”
P.J. Washington and O’Bannon had battled each of the past two seasons with each tasted victory once. With Saturday’s win P.J. Washington broke the tie and walked off the court for the final time at South Point Arena with the trophy.
“This is my last year doing this so I’m just proud to get the win going out for my senior year,” P.J. Washington said. “This is one of our best games of the year. Both teams played really great, fought hard and we came out on top so I’m proud of that.”