Highland's first half sinks Gilbert
February 22, 2023 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
If there was trepidation from #1 seed Highland prior to
Wednesday night's 6A quarterfinal matchup with arch-rival and 6A Central
Region rival #9 Gilbert, it was erased quickly.
The teams matched up for the third time this season. Highland claimed two
Central Region games 10 days apart in January. The most recent meeting
(53-48 on Jan. 26 the closest of the two).
But Highland put Gilbert on the defensive from the get-go in this one,
built a 29-14 halftime advantage and went on to claim a decisive 55-38
triumph at Highland.
Highland (27-3) advances to the conference semifinals on March 1.
Highland's semi foe is fifth-seed Mesa Mountain View. Mountain View
advanced posting a 61-55 road win over #4 Pinnacle. Gilbert, last season's
5A runner-up, finished the season 18-12.
Highland was paced by seniors Isaac Kaps and Noah Peterson. Kaps finished
with eight points - six in the first period. Two of his three baskets in
the quarter were layups off steals. Peterson added a steal resulting in a
three-point play helping the Hawks lead 14-7 at quarter's end. Peterson
led all scorers with 19 points spreading his scoring across all four
Gilbert wasn't able to make a significant run in the second half. The
Tigers sliced two points off Highland's halftime advantage (44-31) after
three quarters. Their deficit was 46-36 with 3:54 to play, but Highland
closed with a 9-2 run over the final 3 1/2 minutes.
Highland received balanced scoring among its starters. Hayden Winegar
joined Peterson in double figures with 10 points. Michael Johnson added
seven points and Brock Knollmiller chipped in six points. Gilbert was led
by senior Jaden Acuna with 15 points.
Gilbert eliminated from open bracket after strong second
half from ALA-Gilbert
February 08, 2023 by Everett Williams/ASU Student
The Gilbert Tigers fell to ALA-Gilbert North 62-55 on the
road Wednesday night after a strong swing of momentum went the Eagles'
Up by eight at halftime, Gilbert started the third quarter slowly by
missing its first three shots then turning the ball over on its fourth
possession. This fueled the rowdy crowd as ALA-Gilbert closed the margin
to two points early in the third quarter.
The control that Gilbert had in the first half was quickly getting
swallowed as the momentum swung hard ALA-Gilbert’s way. After a botched
inbound play from Gilbert led to a transition 3-pointer from ALA-Gilbert,
the gymnasium erupted.
Fans rose to their feet and the student section became a rowdy frenzy.
Gilbert tried to slow the game down. A heavily contested lay-up did not
bounce the Tigers' way and the ball was flung downcourt to ALA-Gilbert’s
Brandon Phelps. Phelps stepped around the defender on the contested
fastbreak layup and drew the foul as the ball kissed off the window and
into the net. The whistle could barely be heard through the roar of the
crowd. ALA-Gilbert took the life out of the Tigers at that moment.
ALA-Gilbert took control from that sequence at the 1:20 mark in the third
“Second half they wanted it more than us,” said coach Jay Caserio. “They
picked up their defense and their pressure. They turned us over way too
many times in the second half. We couldn’t take care of the basketball.
Credit to Coach Novak and his ability to have his guys pick up their
pressure in the second half.”
The Tigers were outscored in the second half 37-22. ALA-Gilbert changed
their second-half defense, switching from only zone to man-to man and
zone. This confused the Tigers offensively.
“They changed their defenses so much that it can kind of confuse you and
get you sped up,” Caserio said.
ALA-Gilbert’s McGuire Andrus led all scorers with 20 points and pushed the
pace of play all night. Jaden Acuna had 13 points and Jalen Green added
The first half was controlled by the visiting Gilbert squad. The Tigers
opened the game with impressive poise as they stretched their lead to
eight midway through the second quarter. But the playoff environment is
something that this Tiger team had never seen before.
“That’s the first time that any of those guys have been in that
environment in the playoffs,” Caserio said. “And you can kind of see the
lack of experience in the second half kind of rear its ugly head, for
The Tigers battled through the tough environment, but in the end, the
combination of inside and outside scoring from the Eagles proved to be too
much. The Tigers have been eliminated from the open bracket for the state
championship, but still remain alive in the 6A playoffs.
“Good environment on the road. It would have been a nice one to get,
obviously. I am proud of my guys, but our season’s not over. We got have
to bounce back in the 6A tournament,” said Caserio
Gilbert tames Desert Ridge, 55-37
January 27, 2023 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
Gilbert took care of business quickly Friday night in its
second match-up with 6A Central Region and city rival Desert Ridge. This
game was nothing like the Tigers 45-42 victory over the Jaguars two weeks
Gilbert outscored Desert Ridge 16-3 in the first quarter and never wavered
in posting a 55-37 triumph at The Jungle. Gilbert, ranked 14th in the
latest 6A power-rankings, improved to 13-10 overall and 4-3 in region
play. That's good for second place behind region leader Highland (7-0
region). Desert Ridge entered play 25th in the power-rankings and fell to
Gilbert held Desert Ridge scoreless for nearly the first five minutes of
the first quarter. Desert Ridge's only points were a three-point play by
junior post Greg Bienvenue at the 3:07 mark. Gilbert scored the first
eight points of the period and closed it with another 8-0 run. Senior
guard Jaden Acuna netted 11 points of his 16 first-half points in the
quarter. Acuna finished with a game-high 18 points.
The second quarter wasn't much different. Gilbert got more players
involved in their scoring with reserve Golden Thibaudeau connecting for
six of his nine points. The Tigers took a 31-8 lead to the lockerroom.
Bienvenue led Desert Ridge with nine points and junior Payton Lapping
checked in with eight points.
Gilbert's 2nd quarter spurs victory
December 14, 2022 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
Hamilton's and Gilbert's boys basketball teams played on
the final night of last season. Meaning they were playing for state titles
- Hamilton against Perry in the 6A final and Gilbert vying with
Centennial for 5A supremacy. Both took home runner-up trophies.
With their starting lineups last season decimated by graduation losses,
they are rebuilding this season. Both are works in progress.
Gilbert has the better of play thus far. The Tigers evened their season
record at 5-5 thanks to their 40-31 victory Wednesday night over Hamilton
at The Jungle. Hamilton saw its record dip to 1-9 with road loss.
Gilbert senior forward Luke Balazentis guided the victory with a strong
first half. Balazentis scored 13 of his game-high 15 points in the first
half. Those helped stake Gilbert to a 21-12 lead at intermission. Nine of
Balazentis first-half points were scored in the second quarter in which
the Tigers outscored Hamilton, 15-4. The Tigers had five players score
either five or four points to complement Balazentis scoring.
Hamilton played Gilbert even for the first 10 minutes of the game. The
Huskies two baskets in the second quarter were scored six minutes apart -
both by Nazir Davis (team-high 12 points). Their final lead was 10-8 at
the 6:55 mark of the second. Gilbert followed with a 13-0 run over the
next five minutes with six consecutive points from Balazentis
initiating the run. Hamilton cut a 26-17 deficit to six twice in the third
quarter, but got no closer.
Hamilton takes about a two-week break from play. The Huskies compete in
the annual McClintock Holiday Shootout Dec. 26-29 at McClintock High.
Gilbert has one more regular-season game before the holiday break. The
Tigers visit Perry on Friday.
Gilbert gets 10 days off after facing Perry to take part in the Legacy
Games - a new event - set for Dec. 27-30 at Bell Bank Park in Mesa.
Schools joining Gilbert in the event are Cienega, Arizona College Prep,
Paradise Honors, Eastmark, Desert Ridge and Strathmore, Alberta CN.
Casteel nips Gilbert in overtime
November 22, 2022 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
Host Gilbert High and Casteel locked up Tuesday in the best
game of the second day of the annual Welcome to the Jungle Tournament.
Casteel was a tad better, rallying from 11 points down in the third
quarter to take a 46-44 overtime win over Gilbert.
Five players combined to score Casteel's seven points in the extra period.
The final tie was 42-all. The Colts took the lead for good on a 44-42 on a
runner in the lane by Nate Ko with 46 seconds left. One free throw each by
Aiden Schmidt and Sean Chance sandwiched around a layup by Gilbert's
Jaelen Green had Casteel up by the final score with 9.4 seconds left.
Gilbert offered up two shots to tie or perhaps win. The first was by Green
blocked in the lane with 3.4 seconds left. The last shot was a desperation
attempt just inside half court by Jaden Acuna.
Ko led Casteel's balanced scoring with nine points. Schmidt followed with
eight and a trio added six points each - Caden Zurek, Ryan Zeidner and
Amare King. Golden Thibaudeau paced Gilbert with 10 points. Teammates
Nazir Richardson and Green checked in with nine points apiece.
In Tuesday's other Welcome to the Jungle games, Perry blasted Desert
Ridge, 77-21; Eastmark handled Corona del Sol, 57-44 and Valley Vista
edged Chandler, 63-62. The standings through two days shows Perry and
Casteel undefeated at 2-0; Eastmark, Corona del Sol, Chandler and Valley
Vista 1-1 and Gilbert and Desert Ridge 0-2.
Thanks to BStrong Media -
Sports Journalism & News for the gallery photos. See the complete set at