Gilbert High's battle plan to defeat Mesa High on Tuesday night worked out close to perfect. Mostly via Gilbert's execution and some help and misfortune for Mesa.
A 9-0 run late in the second period sent Gilbert to intermission with a 14-point lead and the Tigers had their way from there in a 58-41 boys basketball triumph at The Jungle.
Gilbert (10-3, 5-0 power-ranking games) shot well in the first half, which boosts any game plan. Gilbert connected on 50 percent of its shots from the field in the first 16 minutes (13-of-26) and sank four threes. Limiting Mesa (11-6, 6-2 prg) to 1-of-10 shooting from the floor in the second period was another plus as were the Xs and Os drawn up prior to the contest by the Tigers' coaching staff.
“Our goal was to limit (Mesa guard Christian) Harris from getting threes and keeping them from speeding us up,” Gilbert coach Jay Caserio said. “If we could do that and do a good job containing (Isaac) Allen and (Felipe) Velazco on the boards we felt we had a good chance.”
Harris had one of his tougher nights of the season. The 6-foot, senior guard was held scoreless in the first half and didn't dent the scoreboard until four minutes remained in the third period (a three). Harris made one more basket in the quarter. He finished with five points on 2-of-11 shooting.
Drawing the defensive assignment on Harris was Gilbert senior point guard Anthony Bryant. Bryant's defense was stellar and he enjoyed top scoring honors for the game. Bryant was the only player on either team to score in double figures, finishing with 14 points. Bryant scored off his own steals, those from teammates, some via offensive boards and in the third period by nailing a couple 15-foot jumpers.
As for Mesa's 6-10 Allen, he picked up two quick fouls at the 6:28 mark of the first period — one a personal foul the next a technical. He sat the rest of the quarter as Gilbert built a 17-11 lead. Allen was never really a factor, finishing with five points. Harris and Allen average about 24 points a game between them.
Caserio was also concerned with Mesa guard Kale Abbott, who helps the Jackrabbits force the action in half court. Abbott, however, went down with bruised left knee midway through the second period and didn't return. Velazco, a 6-6 senior and solid contributor to the program the past three years for coach Shane Burcar, seemed the most active Jackrabbit in this one. Velazco led Mesa with eight points. Six came in the opening half. Gilbert led by 19 after three quarters and by as much as 24 in the final stanza.
“We didn't do well in our last game with Jefferson (at VisitMesa.com),” Caserio said. “They speeded us up and we had 24 turnovers. We limited those tonight and even the ones we had were out of bounds giving us a chance to set up defensively.”
Gilbert had nine players score. Helping Bryant out offensively were fellow starters Eric Mosley (nine points), Truman Moore (eight) and Wyatt Lowell (six) — two first-half threes.