PRESCOTT VALLEY - Three minutes into the second half, Gilbert Christian’s run at a state title was in serious doubt.
So the Knights turned up the defense and turned it into a championship.
Fort Thomas managed only one field goal and six points in the final 13:19 of the game as Gilbert Christian pulled away for a 44-31 victory in the 1A girls basketball state championship game on Saturday afternoon at Tim’s Toyota Center.
“We just realized it was coming to the end and that we really had to work hard (defensively),” said Gilbert Christian forward Molly van Rijn, who scored a game-high 16 points.
An 8-2 run gave the Apaches a 25-24 lead with 5:19 remaining in the third quarter, but from there the team went cold. They would score only one more point in the quarter as Gilbert Christian took a 32-26 lead into the final quarter.
Gilbert Christian coach Daryl Young said he wasn’t nervous when Fort Thomas made its run to start the second half because there was so much time left.
“At that point, I was saying to myself, ‘We’ve just got to let it ride,” Young said. “We had to keep playing because there was plenty of time on the clock. I got more nervous when we had an 11-point lead with three minutes to go, wanting to hold onto it.”
That margin grew to as many as 12 points, and Fort Thomas didn’t end a 10 ½ minute field goal drought until 2:36 remaining in the contest on a 3-pointer by Cassie Moses. That cut the deficit to nine, but that would be the final points of the game for Fort Thomas.
Gilbert Christian won a state title in 2009, but was knocked out in the first round of the state tournament last season.
“It was tough to lose last year, but that only made us work harder,” van Rijn said.
It was a storybook year for Young, his first as coach of the Knights.
“The cupboard certainly wasn’t bare when I showed up,” he said.