All Gilbert needed was to take a deep breath and relax.
Once the Tigers did, they erased a 9-point second half deficit Saturday and upset host No. 6 Chaparral, 57-55, in the quarterfinals of the boys basketball Division I state playoffs.
No. 11-seeded Gilbert (23-7) will face No. 3 Pinnacle (24-6) in the quarterfinals 6 p.m. Tuesday at Arizona State. Pinnacle toppled No. 19 Tucson Cienega, 73-59, on Saturday.
“They got us out of our sorts a little bit but luckily we have a 10-minute break at halftime to talk about it,” Gilbert coach Jay Caserio said. “The kids did a nice job of focusing on getting stops and putting the ball into the paint really hard, kind of changing the flow of the game.”
Gilbert struggled in the first half with Chaparral’s fast-paced offense and fell behind by as many as 11 points, but after halftime a different Gilbert team took the floor.
Gone was the indecision and lack of ball movement, as Gilbert found Truman Moore on the box for six points in the third quarter on his way to 18 for the game.
“We had a size advantage and we really wanted to slow it down so we could get it inside,” Moore said.
Chaparral (22-7) took the role of firing up long range jumpers and stopped taking the ball to the hole.
“We can’t start settling and let them find a rhythm,” Chaparral coach Daniel Peterson said. “We needed to make smarter decisions down the stretch. That is not how we play, we want to play smart and quick.”
Eric Conklin scored 12 points in the first half but was held to two in the third quarter and scoreless in the fourth.
“He gives everybody trouble, he is a horse,” Caserio said. “We changed the pace of the game which I think helped slow him down a bit.”
Chaparral’s Kenzo Nudo tried to rally the Firebirds with four fourth quarter points, finishing with 12 for the game.
But Chaparral continued to struggle and Gilbert’s Conner Helvig converted 5-of-6 free throws late to ice the victory. Helvig kept Gilbert afloat in the first half with eight points and finished with a game-high 20.
“We had some rough games at the beginning of the year when he missed some free throws down the stretch so it is kind of cool to see him reverse that in the playoffs,” Caserio said. “He is big for us.”
Gilbert 57, Chaparral 55
Gilbert 10 14 17 16 – 57
Chaparral 19 14 11 11 – 55
Gilbert – Helvig 20, Moore 18, Reber 8, Bryant 7, Nicolds 4.
Chaparral – Conklin 14, Nudo 12, Hoffer 9, Bishop 9, Cooper 5, Conley 4, Bayster 2.