Gilbert boys basketball coach Jay Caserio knew exactly the scenario his team was in, and he certainly wasn’t going to be the one to jinx it.
When the Tigers played Highland on Dec. 11, they had control for most of the contest but blew a nine-point fourth quarter lead in an eventual 69-64 loss. Gilbert entered halftime of Friday night’s rematch with an 11-point advantage, but Caserio never mentioned the importance of closing this one out.
“It’s like free throw shooting,” he said. “If you talk about it (then you miss). I didn’t want to play it up during the game.”
The silence was golden, as the No. 7 Tigers played another solid 16 minutes after intermission to cruise to a 59-43 victory over the No. 10 Hawks in a Division I matchup at Gilbert.
Bryce Farabee made a shot with 3:45 left in the third quarter to cut the Tigers’ lead to nine points, but they led by double digits the rest of the way.
Gilbert (14-5) put it away with a 9-1 run to end the third quarter, taking a commanding 17-point lead into the fourth.
Conner Helvig had seven points in that stretch and finished with 21 points, five rebounds and four steals. The senior is a steady presence on a team that has a lot of talent but is also inexperienced.
Helvig was on varsity as a sophomore when the Tigers won only eight games and played a big role in leading them to the Division I quarterfinals last season.
“He’s been with us when we were bad and he’s been with us when we’ve had success,” Caserio said. “You can count on Conner.”
Jake Toolson had 33 points and eight rebounds in the first matchup, but the Tigers blanketed him on the perimeter and doubled him down low with regularity in this one. The Hawks star finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Eric Mosley gave Gilbert a lift in the first half with nine points, as the Tigers used a strong second quarter to take control.
Farabee added 11 points for the Hawks (13-5), who have lost two of their past three games after beating Brophy to win the McClintock Holiday Tournament.
Mosley and Anthony Bryant had nine points apiece for Gilbert.