After the buzzer struck zero, a capacity crowd stormed the court at Gilbert High School as the school’s fight song blared in the background.
The reason, Gilbert had just beat McClintock 81-76 in overtime to go to the 5A boys basketball championship.
The game started out hot for Gilbert, as it finished the first half with a comfortable 42-25 lead. That all changed in the third quarter when Gilbert turned the ball over three straight possessions that lead to an 8-0 McClintock run.
“I knew they weren’t going to give up,” head coach Jay Caserio said. “As hard as they played in the first half, they played harder in the second half.”
McClintock eventually came back thanks to their defense. While Gilbert was more efficient shooting, McClintock took advantage of mental mistakes on the defensive side, helping tie the game at 69-69 at the end of regulation.
“[The team] did a great job sticking together and having my back and not being upset with me when I turned the ball over,” senior guard Nikko Pentalute said. “And so it’s credit to that. I love that.”
Gilbert has 11 games this season decided by one possession, so this wasn’t new to the team. In fact, according to junior guard KJ Perry, Gilbert’s leading scorer.
“It really means we play hard no matter what,” Perry said. “They come back, we come back. We keep fighting.”
Gilbert will face Centennial, who upset Buena on the road, in the 5A championship, which will be held at Gilbert High School on March 1.
“Dream come true. We’ve been waiting for this all year, but job’s not finished.” Pentalute said.