The 2016-2017 season ended in a disappointing fashion for the Gilbert girls basketball team, but they are motivated more than ever for their 2017-2018 campaign.
They finished with a 26-3 record and won every power point game they played, finishing undefeated against Arizona teams in the regular season with an 18-0 record. Their performance earned them the number one seed in the 6A state tournament. After cruising through the first two rounds of the 6A state tournament with ease, the Tigers fell to No. 4-seeded Millennium in the semi-finals.
“That took a lot of momentum into this year and left a bitter taste in our mouth after how it ended,” Gilbert head coach Kyle Pederson said. “So, I think that they are definitely going to be on a mission this year.”
The Tigers are in good position to do just that. Their key returners are twin guards Haley and Hanna Cavinder, who averaged a combined 33.7 points per game last season and are already off to a hot start this season, averaging a combined 41 points per game.
The pair have been key contributors since their freshman year. Both of them recently just surpassed the 1,000-point mark in their careers and still have another season ahead of them. Pederson said the pair have grown as both players and leaders on the court, as they were named team captains with lone senior Stacy Hook for this season.
The twins won’t be the only contributors this season. Through five games, junior forward Brynn Wade has added a new dynamic to the Gilbert offense. She’s averaging almost nine points a game and has tallied double-digit rebounds in every game but one.
Hock will also be a big contributor to the Gilbert squad looking to replicate their successful 2016-2017 season. Through five games, Hock has averaged around seven points and five rebounds a game for the Tigers.
The Tigers lost six seniors from last year’s team, but only two of those seniors averaged more than five points and five rebounds a game. And while the Tigers may be young, they still have a lot of ambition and experience from last year’s successful run.
“They definitely have one goal and that is a state championship,” Pederson said of his team’s ambitions this year. “You always have the mindset of taking it game by game, but that is where they want to get.”
Last season the Tigers only lost two games, both coming in tournaments to out of state teams. This season the Tigers have already matched that total, losing twice in the Highland Thanksgiving tournament to Mesquite and Valley Vista, the defending 5A and 6A state champions.
Pederson said that his squad came out a little timid and slow against the two defending state champions. While the losses may have come early in the season, Pederson said that it may be for the better.
“I think it is going to take some time for this time to develop and click like last years team,” Pederson said. “So, “I’m not sure what our record is really gonna be but I think what the girls ultimately care about is getting to the playoffs and making a run.”
The Tigers won’t have the opportunity to play either team again in the regular season, but will be competing in the Nike Tournament of Champions from December 19 to December 22. Last season they suffered one of their three losses to Oaks Christian from Westlakes, CA in the tournament.
With the beginning of the state tournament still three months away, the Gilbert Tigers will continue to grow and develop as they look to repeat their successful 2016-2017. This time, they just want to take it one step further.
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