The question before the Greater Spokane League boys basketball game between first-place Gonzaga Prep and surging Central Valley was: How much the Bullpups’ size would have to do with the outcome?
The answer? Everything.
Between them, G-Prep’s bigs, Ryan Nicholas and Travis Long, scored 42 points in the 53-32 victory.
They fueled a 28-6 halftime lead and kept the Bears at a distance after CV had cut the advantage to 12 points 3 minutes into the fourth quarter.
Was it the best half the Bullpups (11-1) had played this season?
“I would think so,” said coach Mike Haugen.
CV coach Rick Sloan said the game plan was to come in and try and find a way to neutralize the 6-foot-7 Nicholas and 6-5 Long.
“Obviously, we failed,” he said. “They are a handful. They are physically strong and skilled and we had no answer for their inside game.”
The pair scored 11 of G-Prep’s first 12 points and took all its shots en route to a 16-0 in the first quarter. The Bears (6-6) had one rebound midway through the period and didn’t score until a minute remained.
CV’ first field goal came with 5 minutes, 11 seconds left in the half and they didn’t get another until a desperation buzzer-beater at intermission. The Bears made a third-quarter run, closing out the period with three successive 3-pointers, two by Scott Simon. And it was 42-30 with 4:54 left to play.
But Nicholas scored seven of his game-high 25 points in an 11-0 run with hard moves to the basket as the Bullpups put the game away.
Long scored 13 of his 17 points in the first half, his first double-figure effort in five games.
“We felt our spacing in games had not been good,” Haugen said. “We worked a lot on the two of them seeing each other and not being so easy to guard.”
It worked to perfection and most of the damage was done inside by the bulkier Bullpups.
“They are athletic bigs who weigh 230 pounds to our 185,” Sloan said. “They got easy shots and putbacks. I think the loss to Lewis and Clark kind of woke up the Prepsters.”
Nicholas opened the game with a second-effort basket following a pass from Long. Long scored twice and hit a free throw after Nicholas rejected a CV shot.
Then Nicholas scored inside and Long tallied following a turnover for the 12-0 lead. Nicholas added another basket in the quarter on a midrange jump shot and opened the quarter with another. The pair had 23 of G-Prep’s 28 halftime points.
Haugen said his team played with great heart and effort.
Shadle Park 64, Mt. Spokane 42: The Highlanders (10-1) remained on a role and tied with the Bullpups for first place. They hit 11 3-pointers at home, six by Luke Jordan for a game-high 18 points, getting seven in the first half to build a 37-16 lead. Chaz Johnson of Wildcats (4-6), who was averaging 20.7 points per game, was limited to six, his first time less than double figures this season.
Ferris 62, Mead 56: The Saxons (7-5) reversed the outcome of a week earlier, with a 21-12 third-quarter against the visiting Panthers (5-6). Justin Stewart led four double-figure scorers with 23 points. Sophomore Jordan Tonani, starting in place of absent Jason Bates, scored a career-high 14.
Lewis and Clark 49, University 42: The Tigers (5-7) put a crimp in the playoff hopes of the host Titans (2-10). Levi Taylor scored 18. LC led by six after a quarter and finished the win with a 20-point fourth quarter.
Rogers 54, East Valley 41: The host Knights (1-11) were just 4 for 26 from the field in the first half, many from point-blank range. The Pirates (5-6) took a 24-12 lead and didn’t look back. Jesse Vaughn scored 17 points on 6-for-11 shooting and Dillon Franklin had 15. Between them they had 15 rebounds.