If opening night was any indication, Gonzaga Prep is going to have its hands full in defense of its second consecutive State 4A title from last season.
Despite getting 46 points from senior Liam Lloyd, the Bullpups allowed double figures to four Bears, and Central Valley dealt visiting Gonzaga Prep an 87-76 loss in the season and Greater Spokane League openers for both teams on Tuesday.
“I just liked the effort,” CV coach Mike Laws said of the win. “I mean, those two teams battled on either end, getting after it. They play hard, but it’s clean. We’re very similar in kind of our approach, so it’s kind of fun to see.”
Noah Sanders led CV with 20 points. Jayce Simmons scored 19 and 6-foot-10 Gavin Gilstrap added 12 points with 10 boards and two blocks.
“We’ve got a lot of depth,” Laws said. “It’s gonna be, ‘Who’s it going to be tonight? What are they going to give us and what can we take?’ But it’s a group that’s pretty balanced.”
G-Prep last lost a league game on Dec. 20, 2016, a string of 39 straight.
“People want to beat us, that’s nothing new,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “That is what it is, but it has no bearing on the game.
“I don’t believe it makes teams play any harder or us any worse. It’s just part of the excitement for the exterior world, but we expect that and bottom line we just need to get better and better.”
Despite Lloyd’s offensive performance – he tied Rogers’ Dave Wood (1971) for second-most points in a league game – the Grand Canyon University-bound Lloyd wanted to talk defense.
“We definitely need to step it up on defense, and that’s going to be definitely a focus for the next couple days,” Lloyd said.
“Our defense was as bad as it’s ever been,” he said. “And we’re going to get better.”
McIntyre brings back just two off last season’s title winner – Lloyd and sophomore Jayden Stevens, who is out with injury.
“For so many of these kids, this was their first varsity game,” McIntyre continued. “I know there were jitters, and I thought we settled down and we had some good stuff.
“We’re going to need to continue to get better as a team and bring these other guys along and get some roles defined, but that’s all part of this process.”
“We’ve got to come in with the same confidence we did last year,” Lloyd said. “I think all the new guys got out their jitters this game, and I think they’ll be better next game because less pressure, less nervousness. So we’ll be good.”
CV tried to establish Gilstrap early, and the big man had three boards in the first two minutes. But Lloyd got to the line for 10 free throws – hitting nine – and made a pair of 3s, scoring 17 in the first quarter to help G-Prep to a 21-13 lead after one.
“I think getting to the line is free points,” Lloyd said. “I’m a good free-throw shooter so I’m comfortable there. If I can get to the line and like shoot 14-15 free throws a game, that can increase my points and increase our (likelihood) to win by a lot.”
Simmons drilled a 3 then made a fastbreak layin coming out of the break to pull the Bears within one. Later, he connected on a three-point play then another steal and layup with 2 minutes left to put CV up 33-26.
Dylan Darling (15 points) drilled a 3 make it a 10-point game, and the Bears took a 37-26 lead into intermission. Simmons had 12 points in the frame for 14 at the break.
Early in the third, Hodges Flemming (16 points) drilled a 3, and Lloyd converted a three-point play off a strip and layup to get G-Prep back under double digits. Lloyd’s 3-pointer with 4 minutes in the frame got it to six.
Sanders hit a 3 with 1:29 left in the third to make it 57-50. But Lloyd was fouled on a 3-pointer and converted all to make it 57-53. His 3-pointer falling out of bounds on the baseline with 30 seconds left made it a two-point game, but Sanders responded in kind at the other end and CV led 60-56 after three.
Lloyd had 17 in the period, Sanders 13.
Darling had seven quick points in the fourth to bump CV up again. But Lloyd hit a 3 and a short jumper early in the fourth to get within three. When McIntyre called a timeout with 3:06 left in the game, the Bullpups trailed by five at 74-69.
CV’s Teagen Hoard drilled one from the corner for 3 to get it back to eight. Gilstrap’s reverse layup made it 81-73 with 60 seconds left.
Hoard blocked Lloyd on a drive to the hoop with 35 seconds left to help seal the win.
Around the league
Mt. Spokane 80, Moses Lake 43: Tyson Degenhart scored 25 points and the visiting Wildcats beat the Chiefs in a nonleague opener. JoJo Anderson added 14 points and Kobe Simpson had 10 for Mt. Spokane. Kyle Karstetter led Moses Lake with 16 points.
Ferris 66, Coeur d’Alene 45: McCoy Smith scored 16 points and the Saxons beat the visiting Vikings in a nonleague opener for both teams. Nathan Hocking added 13 points for Ferris. Coeur d’Alene was led by Luke McLaughlin with 14 points.
Mead 61, Wenatchee 45: Tyson Rogalette had 13 points for the visiting Panthers (1-0) in a win over Wenatchee in the opener for both teams. Garrett Long led Wenatchee with 20 points.
Lakeland 67, North Central 46: Ben Zubaly scored 17 and the Hawks topped the host Indians in a nonleague opener. Levi Edwards and Ayden Batnufsky lead North Central with 10 points apiece.
West Valley 60, Shadle Park 49: Jayce Pakootas scored 22 points, Blaine Vasicek added 17 and the Eagles defeated the visiting Highlanders in a nonleague opener. Riley Sloan scored 14 points for the Highlanders.
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