Bishop Gorman’s Chuck O’Bannon Jr. elevates for a dunk against Clark in the Sunset Regional championship game at Shadow Ridge High School on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017.
Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 | 9:52 p.m.
Following the Bishop Gorman High basketball team's 64-51 win against Clark tonight for a ninth straight Sunset Regional championship, senior Christian Popoola Jr. grabbed the trophy at midcourt and made a beeline for the Gaels’ bench.
There he handed the trophy to junior Jamal Bey, who sat battered and bruised with ice shrink-wrapped to his left shoulder. Bey grabbed the trophy with his un-injured arm and held it up to the jubilation of his teammates.
Gorman survived a slugfest with Clark and it was Bey — who wasn’t even sure he would play with a dislocated shoulder — who delivered the knockout blow.
The teams traded leads throughout the first half with neither leading by more than three points. Gorman took a 23-22 lead into the half, but Bey had taken only two shots and was held scoreless.
“The first half he was a little tentative because it was the second time the shoulder popped out and I think that’s a big difference than the first time,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “We just told him at halftime that if he’s going to play he needs to leave it all out there.”
Bey first dislocated his shoulder on Jan. 20 against Sierra Vista and then re-injured it blocking a shot on Tuesday night against Palo Verde. But when the Gaels needed him most, he put the injury out of his mind and delivered.
Gorman started to pull away from Clark late in the third quarter, with Bey drilling a 3-pointer as he was taken down by a Charger defender. He hit the free throw to complete the rare four-point play and put the Gaels up, 43-28.
“I caught it and I just thought, ‘let’s put one up,’” Bey said, “and boom it went in. Luckily he fouled me.”
That play seemingly ended what was a back-and-forth contest to that point. Bey finished with 15 points, three assists and a block.
“He’s an incredible kid that fights through everything,” Rice said. “We didn’t know if he was going to be able to play but right after the injury happened on Tuesday night he said, ‘Don’t worry coach I’m playing Saturday night.’”
It was Gorman’s defensive pressure that broke the game open in the third quarter, forcing 17 total turnovers.
“We locked down on defense and we just played hard,” Bey said. “Usually we just lay back on defense but this time we really tried to put it on them.”
Clark was held to their its-lowest scoring output of the season and shot only 35 percent from the floor.
Gorman senior Chuck O’Bannon Jr. took over early in the game, keeping the Gaels in it while Bey and Popoola struggled offensively. The Southern California commit finished with 26 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and three blocks.
“I was so proud of Chuck,” Rice said. “When he gets it going he’s the best shooter in the state but sometimes he settles for jumpers because he is so good. I was so proud of him in the first half because he attacked several times.”
Popoola added 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in what Rice called his best game of the season and no other Gael scored more than four points.
The win clinches Bishop Gorman a spot in the state tournament, where they will face either Foothill or Reno High on Thursday at the Cox Pavilion at UNLV.
Clark will face Foothill in Tuesday’s play-in game for the right to play in the state tournament. If Clark wins that game it will face Coronado in the state semifinal on Thursday.
In a year in which Bishop Gorman’s dominance has been questioned, the Gaels are now Sunset champions for the ninth straight year and two games away from their sixth straight state title.
“It’s very important to us,” Bey said. “Everyone was doubting us saying we wouldn’t get another one so we just wanted to come out here and prove to everyone that we could do it even without a big (man).”