Mwani Wilkinson elevates Gorman over Coronado, 70-62

Posted Saturday, 25 January 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

Mwani Wilkinson can leap like few others can, but even he had his doubts about this one. Bishop Gorman was holding a slim, 52-50 lead over Coronado early in the fourth quarter of the Big City Showdown and Gorman point guard Zaon Collins had come up with a loose ball at midcourt. Advancing the other way in a flash, Collins dribbled twice, skipped and tossed a one-handed lob toward the rim. On the far side of the court, Wilkinson took off from outside the restricted area, elevated beyond his own expectations, caught the ball with two hands and surprised himself by slamming it down. Sparked by Wilkinson’s incredible aerial feat, the Gaels methodically pulled away down the stretch for a 70-62 victory at a packed Cox Pavilion on Friday. Wilkinson finished with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds, and it was his alley-oop dunk that was the talk of the celebratory locker room. “I didn’t think I was going to catch it,” Wilkinson said. “I took the greatest and biggest strides I could. I got my footing right and I just jumped and I caught it.” Bishop Gorman improved to 19-3 with the win, but it didn’t come easy. Coronado jumped out to an 8-2 advantage in the opening minutes and led by as many as 12 points in the first half. But Gorman battled back behind Wilkinson and Collins and trimmed the deficit to two points at halftime. Gorman took its first lead midway through the third quarter when Wilkinson came up with a steal and passed ahead to Will McClendon for a fast-break layup to make it 44-42. Wilkinson’s alley-oop finish made it 54-50 early in the fourth quarter, and Collins stuck a jumper on the following possession to make it 56-50. Superstar Coronado guard Jaden Hardy drove for a layup to pull the Cougars within 59-54 with five minutes to play, but that was as close as Coronado would get. With less than two minutes to play, Wilkinson backed his way to the basket and converted through contact; he made the and-1 free throw to give Gorman a 66-58 lead and seal the win. Wilkinson, a 6-foot-6 senior, made 9-of-11 shots from the field. “Mwani is a 17-year-old man,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “A physical specimen. He’s just a monster.” Wilkinson also played a key role in Bishop Gorman’s defensive game plan, which was built around getting the ball out of Hardy’s hands. The Gaels frequently double-teamed him in the backcourt and forced him to pass ahead, then clamped down on him away from the ball for the remainder of the possession. It worked, as Hardy — the No. 7 player in the Class of 2021, according to 247Sports — finished with just 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Collins tallied with 14 points and eight assists. Coronado’s Tyrelle Hunt scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Outside the locker room, Rice acknowledged that Gorman and Coronado could meet again in the playoffs, when the stakes are much higher. But the only thing Wilkinson wanted to run back after the game was the replay of his alley-oop slam. When asked where the dunk ranks among his personal catalogue, he deferred to the ESPN cameras. “If it’s on SportsCenter, that’s No. 1,” he said. Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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