The usual things the University boys basketball team likes to do – get out in transition and shoot the 3-pointer – were pain- stakingly difficult to do Tuesday.
Why? Easy answer. Gonzaga Prep’s never-quit defense.
The pieces are starting to come together for the defending 4A state champion Bullpups, who made life miserable for the preseason favored Titans as visiting Gonzaga Prep topped University 54-48 in an entertaining Greater Spokane League game.
Entertaining, that is, if you like defense.
The Bullpups (5-3 overall, 5-1) knocked the Titans (6-2, 4-2) out of a share of first place as G-Prep now stands alone at the top of a league chock full of parity.
An 11-2 spurt by the Bullpups to open the second quarter gave them a lead they would possess until midway through the fourth.
It was rare that the Titans had open shots. The Bullpups played denial man-to-man defense, fighting through screens and collapsing to help any time U-Hi tried to dribble penetrate.
“It was the No. 1 key to the game … to challenge the 3-point shot because we know they’re very athletic and can shoot it,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “The first thing is you’ve got to stop them in transition and slow them down. We did a good job of that. Then we did a good of locating the shooters as well. So there weren’t too many possessions where we lost our concentration on that.”
Defense has been a staple of McIntyre’s three years at G-Prep.
“He instills mental toughness in us,” G-Prep senior guard Ryan Gregory said of McIntyre. “He challenges us mentally and physically to the best of our abilities every practice.”
Gregory hit one of the key shots of the game when he secured a loose ball as the Titans scrambled on defense and hit a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded, giving the Bullpups a 35-31 lead going into the fourth.
“I was struggling a little bit in the first half and when I hit that shot and I think it got us going and got the tempo going,” Gregory said. “I think that was a big turning point in the game.”
Gregory had a team-high 13 points and seven rebounds.
U-Hi took its first significant lead at 40-38 when Jared Miller scored one of the few baskets the Titans made in transition with 4:37 remaining.
The Titans led again at 42-40, but the Bullpups finished the game making 6 of 6 foul shots to hold off U-Hi.
“We didn’t play our cleanest game, but I’m so proud of the heart and determination the kids showed,” McIntyre said. “At least we’re building an identity.”
It was the second straight league loss for U-Hi after a 4-0 start in the GSL.
“They got the game to the speed and tempo that they wanted,” U-Hi coach Garrick Phillips said. “Our guys battled really, really hard. We just couldn’t make a shot toward the end. We got some good looks but we didn’t make them. That’s a result of them playing good defense.”
Shadle Park 64, Ferris 60 (OT): The Highlanders (5-3, 3-3) outscored the visiting Saxons (5-3, 3-3) 13-8 in the fourth to forge overtime.
Brett Boese scored a game-high 25 points to lead Shadle and Kionte Brown added 16. Chris Wilson led Ferris with 19 and Chase Haack scored 17.
Rogers 47, Lewis and Clark 32: The Pirates (4-3, 3-3) pulled the Tigers (6-2, 4-2) back to the pack in this low-scoring game at Rogers.
Amaujae Daniels led Rogers with 14 points and Steve Delvecchio added 11. Austin Damon led LC with 10.
Central Valley 76, North Central 52: The Bears (5-3, 4-2) got out to a fast start, outscoring the visiting Indians (2-6, 2-4) 24-11 in the first quarter.
NC never recovered.
Garrett Sawyer led CV with a season-high 19 points and Austin Rehkow chipped in 12. Kiel Rhodes led NC with 15.
Mead 59, Mt. Spokane 58: The Panthers (1-7, 1-5) watched all of a 13-point lead through three quarters evaporate before they held on for their first win.
Visiting Mt. Spokane (2-6, 1-5) trailed 47-34 going into the final period, but the Wildcats outscored Mead 24-12 to make things dramatic in the end.
Forrest Baker led Mead with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Stu Stiles led Mt. Spokane with 18 points.