Gonzaga keeps lead, tops Zebras 91-70

One of the best high school basketball teams in the nation was too much for Pine Bluff on Thursday, though the Zebras put forth a good showing.

Gonzaga College High School from Washington, D.C., defeated Pine Bluff 91-70 in the second round of the King Cotton Holiday Classic at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

Coach Billy Dixon said the Zebras knew this would be a challenging opponent.

“They all can shoot the basketball,” Dixon said. “They big, physical guys. Some of my guys, they kinda got that experience where, really wasn’t much they could do … It’s a learning experience for us. I tell guys out there, ‘I don’t care how good you are. There’s always somebody else out there that’s better.’” Gonzaga (10-0), ranked fifth in the nation by MaxPreps, shot 69.4 percent from the field and 9 of 15 from 3-point range. Nyk Lewis led the Eagles with 23 points, while Derek Dixon scored 21. Dixon was 5 of 5 from 3-point range.

Connor Amorosi and Alex Touomou each had 11 and Christian Gurdak and William Harper each scored 10 in the win.

Pine Bluff (9-3) got 32 points from senior Courtney Crutchfield, who also collected 7 rebounds. Deriyon Graydon scored 14 points, and Randy Emerson Jr. finished with 9.

Crutchfield said despite the loss, he enjoyed playing against one of the nation’s best.

“It was very competitive out there,” Crutchfield said. “That’s what I like most about the game of basketball. You get to showcase your skills against high-level teams, especially in this tournament.” Gonzaga came out hot from 3-point range, with Dixon and Harper putting the Eagles ahead 9-2 early in the first quarter. Gonzaga went on a 10-0 run in the second quarter to pull ahead 40-23 with 3:10 to go in the half, but Pine Bluff closed the gap with a 10-1 run. Dixon scored a layup in the final 10 seconds to make it 43-33 Gonzaga at halftime.

The Eagles again built their lead in the third quarter, at one point leading 61-44. Again, Pine Bluff answered. Crutchfield beat the third quarter buzzer with a 3-pointer to close the gap to 65-60, capping off a 16-4 run to end the quarter.

Dixon said Pine Bluff closing the gap in the third quarter shows the Zebras’ potential.

“What we gotta figure out is how we put that together for the whole 32 minutes and be able to play a full game that way,” Dixon said. “When you playing a high-level team like this, there’s going to be moments of runs. We had moments of runs, but we also had moments where we were down. We didn’t score the ball. We didn’t make things happen.” Pine Bluff couldn’t find the extra run it needed to finish the comeback. Gonzaga outscored the Zebras 26-10 in the fourth quarter to close out its second win of the tournament.

Dixon said the Zebras just need to bounce back today.

“Our goal is simple,” Dixon said. “We gotta come back tomorrow and regroup. We gotta come back, and we gotta play. Our goal is to get better. That’s what these three games are all about is helping us get better.”


10 a.m.: McDonough (Ga.) vs. White Hall 11:30 a.m.: Sandy Creek (Tyrone, Ga.) vs. Pinson Valley (Ala.) 1 p.m.: Duncanville (Texas) vs. Silsbee (Texas) 2:30 p.m.: Benton vs. Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.) 4 p.m.: Little Rock Christian Academy vs. Booker T. Washington (Houston) 5:30 p.m.: St. Joseph (Santa Maria, Calif.) vs. Little Rock Central 7 p.m.: King Bracket championship — Gonzaga College High (D.C.) vs. Westminster Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 8:45 p.m.: St. Frances Academy (Baltimore) vs. Pine Bluff