It had the feel of an early-season game but Gilbert will take it just the same.
Connor Helvig scored 17 points and Gilbert took advantage of a cold-shooting Mesquite team to beat the Wildcats 51-38 on Saturday night in the championship of the Fear the Hop Tournament at Mesa.
"Trying to get better that's what we are trying to do in this tournament," said Gilbert coach Jay Caserio. "Obviously the win is nice, it's a bonus."
This was not the Mesquite team that beat one of Division I's preseason favorites in Corona del Sol on Wednesday to reach the title game. The Wildcats had seven turnovers in the first quarter, went nearly five minutes of the second quarter without a point and struggled to get the ball to its shooters all night.
"I think Gilbert got us out of sorts a little bit," Mesquite coach John Burns said. "We didn't guard like we wanted to guard and then offensively, they got us out, they guarded they way they wanted to guard. It kind of messed us up a little bit."
The Tigers used a press early on, helping to force some of those early turnovers and sparked an 18-2 run in the second period that gave Gilbert a 30-15 lead at the break.
"It's not really a press to get a lot of steals," Caserio said. "It's really to try and slow teams down and not let them get into their offense. That's really been good for us."
It worked against Mesquite. No one scored in double figures as the Tigers held sharpshooter Sami Bzai to eight points, including two 3-pointers, and Miles Johnson to eight points as well.
Cody Martin added 11 points and Maurice Thomas scored 10 for the Tigers, who beat Hamilton and host-Mesa to reach the championship. That was after being routed by Corona in a preliminary round game on Monday.
"We're trying to play fast right now," Caserio said. "But when teams are getting back and getting into their defense, you need to be able to execute. So we are not doing that very well right now. Defense is what is keeping us in games right now."
Mesquite got by Avondale Agua Fria on Tuesday and then beat Corona 61-50 on Wednesday.
Helvig scored seven points in the key second-quarter stretch while Thomas hit a 3-pointer and then dunked the ball right before the buzzer to give Gilbert all the momentum it needed.
In the third quarter, Mesquite tried a form of a 1-3-1 zone but Caserio had his team play patient, pulling the ball out and waiting for a good shot.
Mesquite pulled within 39-27 after a layup by Tre Myles with 5:52 remaining but Gilbert scored the next six points, four by Helvig and the Tigers coasted.
Casey Benson scored 16 points to lead Corona past Mesa 60-34 in the third-place game earlier Saturday.