Bishop Gorman’s basketball team stepped into a lion's den-like atmosphere Tuesday night at Clark High School.
A sell-out crowd crammed into Clark’s gym. There were so many supporters wearing the Chargers’ black and yellow they couldn’t all find seats and were forced to stand at the top of the bleachers, creating a vociferous environment for the visiting team.
But it didn’t faze the Gaels, as they stormed out to a commanding 15-0 lead in the opening minutes. Clark would fight back, but Bishop Gorman escaped with a 61-55 win.
It took the Chargers three and a half minutes to make their first bucket of the game as they were swarmed by the Bishop Gorman pressure on defense.
“Our guys were fired up in the locker room,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “We knew they’d come out really hard and ready to play and I was proud of our guys. Sometimes we don’t have the fastest starts, but tonight we did.”
The Gaels led 24-12 after the first period, but Clark cut the deficit to eight by halftime.
“We jumped out to the early lead and had some momentum,” Rice said. “We knew they’d fight back, especially at home with this really big crowd.”
Sophomore guard Noah Taitz led Bishop Gorman with 12 points at halftime after sinking 7-of-7 from the free throw line in the opening 16 minutes.
In the second half, big man Isaiah Cottrell took over the game with his presence in the paint. The 6-foot-9 sophomore led the Gaels with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
“Isaiah rebounded the ball really well,” Rice said. “We controlled most of the second half, but they were always within striking distance so it was a little scary there at the end.”
The Chargers pulled within a possession of Bishop Gorman on multiple occasions, 57-54 with 1:52 to play, but couldn’t finish the comeback.
“It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted and that got us into a big hole,” Clark coach Chad Beeten said. “It’s hard to fight back against a good team, but I couldn’t be prouder of the way they did. I think if nothing else they know how to fight and how to play hard and dig your way back, and that’s what we did.”
The teams will meet again on Feb. 9 at Bishop Gorman, and will in all likelihood see each other again in the playoffs. While Clark didn’t get the result it wanted this time, the way the Chargers played the final 30 minutes is an encouraging sign moving forward.
“I think that’s the confidence,” Beeten said. “Soft kids or mentally weak kids would have gone home with their tail between their legs and lost by 30, but we didn't. We had a shot to tie the game and who knows, maybe win the game.”
With the win, Bishop Gorman improves to 19-4 on the season and 8-0 in division play.
“Overall we made some mistakes, but obviously we’ll take a win on the road against a really good team,” Rice said.