It’s not often when two signed Division I-bound big men get to square off head-to-head in a league game. Such was the anticipation for Tuesday’s showdown between Gonzaga Prep 6-foot-7 junior Anton Watson and University’s 6-9 Tanner Christensen.
Unfortunately, early foul trouble for both robbed much of the marquee matchup.
Watson finished with 22 points – 14 in the third quarter with Christensen on the bench – and Gonzaga Prep (11-0, 5-0) ran away from visiting University (5-6, 0-5) 68-40 in Greater Spokane League action.
Watson has another year before suiting up for the Gonzaga Bulldogs, while Christensen is headed for Moscow next season with the Idaho Vandals.
Watson and Christensen picked up two fouls apiece early and both sat most of the first quarter. Neither scored until the 4-minute mark of the second, when Christensen made his first bucket of the game.
“Early fouls really hurt,” University coach Garrick Phillips said. “They defend really well and made it hard on us offensively. I thought they got away with being very, very physical early in the game and that sets the tone for us and we didn’t respond very well. Credit to their defense, for sure.”
While the big guys seemingly were whistled for breathing hard, the officials let them play on the outside.
“Everything in the key was ticky-tack but I felt like both teams were getting assaulted on on the perimeter with no whistles,” Phillips explained. “That’s just hard when it turns into a breakaway on what was a two-possession game early.”
The first quarter very sluggish, with misses more than doubling the number of makes for both teams. Prep’s Liam Lloyd drilled a 3-pointer toward the end of the frame and Jamaari Jones’ short jumper put the Pups up 10-3 after the first.
“Took us a while to find our rhythm,” Gonzaga Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “We always talk about relying on our defense and I thought we played a really good defensive half.”
Late in the second quarter, Watson made his only basket of the half and drew Christensen’s third foul. He converted the free throw to help the Bullpups head into intermission with a 23-14 advantage.
Prep’s all-purpose senior Sam Lockett came down awkwardly on a rebound late in the half , favoring his left ankle. McIntyre described the injury as a “normal sprain” with no break or torn ligaments.
Christensen picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the third quarter, and Watson got his third moments later. Christensen headed to the bench but Watson stayed in – and took over.
Coming out of a U-Hi timeout, Watson gathered a steal and went the length for an easy layup. He followed that with a jumper in the lane, and hit a 3-pointer from the corner before slamming home a two-handed jam.
Watson followed a miss with a tip-in and made another layup. He totaled 14 points in the quarter, almost all with Christensen on the bench.
“Kind of frustrating in that regard,” McIntyre said of the foul trouble. “Anton was chomping at the bit. We just told him to be patient and his time would come. In the third quarter when he found his rhythm he took over the game.”
Watson’s outburst helped Gonzaga Prep lead 48-27 after three.
Christensen returned for fourth quarter but it was too little, too late. He scored eight of his 10 points in the last stanza.
Around the GSL
Central Valley 77, Mead 53: Zach Stocker scored 32 points and the Bears (5-5, 3-2) defeated the Panthers (3-8, 1-5) in a GSL matchup. Stocker tied the CV single-game record for 3-pointers with eight, set in 1995. Sam Wenkheimer paced Mead with 19 points.
Mt. Spokane 50, Post Falls 48: Jerry Twenge scored 14 points and the Wildcats (9-2), rated 13th in State 3A, held off the visiting Trojans (6-5) in a nonleague game. Tanner McCliment-Call led Post Falls with 17 points.
North Central 66, Eastmont (WA) 50: Leon Sayers scored 32 points and the visiting Indians (8-4) beat the Wildcats (2-8) in a nonleague game. NC outscored Eastmont 20-6 in the fourth quarter.