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AIA365 Staff | Students

Les Willsey

Staff Writer,

Gilbert High, Mesa High advance to Fear the Hop title game

Nov 21, 2012

Gilbert's boys basketball team had a plan Wednesday night and executed it to perfection in stopping Division I's longest winning streak.

Gradually building a lead with patience, defense and rebounding, Gilbert put an end to defending champ Corona del Sol's 32-game winning streak with a decisive 54-39 win in the semifinals of the Fear the Hop Tournament at Mesa High.

"We did not want a track meet," Gilbert coach Jay Caserio said. "We're a bigger team this year. They have a lot of guards. We wanted to control the tempo. We did a good job of that."

Gilbert (3-0) advances to the championship game at 7 p.m. on Saturday against host Mesa High. Mesa (2-1) knocked off Mountain Ridge in the other semifinal, 64-47.

Corona has three new faces in its starting lineup and the main firepower returning is junior guard Casey Benson. Benson endured a touigh night. He finished with seven points, making 3-of-9 shots from the field. Corona couldn't get in a running game and settled for a lof of perimeter shots. The Aztecs made precious few, making just 6-of-31 in the first half.

Meanwhile, Gilbert got more of the looks it wanted in the second quarter, getting three post-up baskets and dominating the boards. Still, Corona trailed by a manageable margin of 21-14 at halftime.

The game, however, slipped away at the start of the third period as Corona's shooting turned worse. Gilbert used an 11-0 run the opening three minutes of the third to lead 32-14. Corona was blanked from the floor in the quarter (0-for-11) and was outscored in the period, 16-5.

"They took us out of everything," Corona del Sol coach Sam Duane Jr. said. "We wanted to run. You can't run if you don't get rebounds or make shots. They rebounded better and played great defense".

Caserio credited senior guard Sergio Valladolid for his work guarding Benson pretty much all night.

"(Sergio's) our glue guy," Caserio said. "He rode the bench last year. He's so smart. He watches a lot of basketball on TV. He's done great getting his chance this year."

Gilbert, which also lost a trio of starters to graduation, was led in scoring by senior Conner Helvig with 14 points. Anthony Bryant had 10 points (all from the free-throw line) and Spencer Nicolds chipped in with eight points. Corona was led by Ashton Howard, who came off the bench to score 14 points. Nine came in the fourth period that for a brief moment helped cut the lead to nine with 2:30 left to play.

The other games that wrap up the tournament on Saturday are: Highland vs. Agua Fria for seventh place at 2:30 p.m.; Hamilton vs. Mesquite for fifth at 4 p.m. and Corona del Sol vs. Ridge for third at 5:30.