A deeper look at Gilbert boys basketball
Judging by coaching input and overall records, there is a Big Four when it comes to Division I boys basketball.
Desert Mountain, Corona del Sol, Cesar Chavez and Mesa have the four best winning percentages in the division and are perceived as the top state title contenders. With that being said, does Gilbert deserve to be in that group?
The Tigers are 14-5 on the season, with victories over Corona del Sol, Hamilton, Marcos de Niza, Red Mountain and Highland, among others.
Gilbert has more losses than any of the top four, but take a closer look at how they happened:
* The Tigers’ first loss came to Mesa, 51-50 in overtime. Felipe Velazco had a tip-in with 12 seconds left to sink Gilbert after teammate Christian Harris sent the game to overtime with a 3-pointer at the end of the fourth quarter.
* The team’s second loss came to Highland, 69-64 in double overtime. Gilbert led by nine points heading into the fourth quarter but had trouble down holding it down the stretch.
* Gilbert’s third loss came to Red Mountain, 55-54. The Tigers hit only 3-of-8 free throws at the end and Conner Helvig had a potential game-winning shot knocked away at the buzzer.
* The team’s fourth loss came to Mountain View, 72-67, in overtime. Gilbert led by 18 points with about 10 minutes remaining but allowed the Toros to make a furious comeback. The Toros sent the game to overtime on a last-second 3-pointer and then finished off the comeback.
* The Tigers’ most recent loss came to Mercer (Wash.), 50-45, in a game that was tied at halftime and competitive much of the way.
In total, Gilbert has lost all five games by five points or fewer, three in overtime, and had a fourth-quarter lead against all of its Arizona opponents. Needless to say, the Tigers have played with everyone on their schedule.
The inability to close out some of those games is concerning, but the ability to build the lead in the first three quarters is probably more predictive of future success.
Corona, Desert Mountain, Chavez and Mesa have proven themselves as legitimate state title contenders. The Tigers, though, are a few bounces away from being right in that group.
“Coach (Sammy) Duane (of Corona del Sol) told me a few weeks ago, ‘Hey, those (close losses) are all going to even out in the second half,’” Gilbert coach Jay Caserio said. “I said, ‘Sammy, I hope so.’”
Gilbert is currently No. 8 in the power point rankings at 9-2, an important spot because the top eight teams get first-round byes in the playoffs.