Ah, those first few minutes of a third quarter.
It's what coaches and players like to call the most important segment of a basketball game.
It might be overdone and not always true, but it was for a Division III basketball school building a dynasty in Gilbert.
In the fourth meeting of the season between No. 2 Gilbert Christian and No. 9 Valley Christian, an expectedly-tight game grew wide in the first five minutes of the third quarter, and the Knights repeated as Div. III boys basketball state champions with a 60-48 victory on Saturday night at Jobing.com Arena.
It was Gilbert Christian's third title in the past four years during its infancy existence as a school, one which is headed up to Division II competition for the next two-year scheduling block beginning this fall.
"It's humbling," junior guard Roberto Reyes said. "So many other teams want to be in this spot."
Reyes was the catalyst who put the Knights there. Turnovers and defensive rebounding woes contributed to a sluggish start offensively for Valley Christian, but the Trojans' Colten Gentry (seven points) and T.J. Widner (12 first-half points) helped Valley Christian pull within 32-25 at halftime.
But Gilbert Christian - which struggled at times in its semifinal win against Scottsdale Christian on Friday night - did no such thing in the second half.
Reyes drove for a layup, hit a free throw, then hit a 3-pointer after a teammate's offensive rebound from his missed free throw, then hit another layup a couple minutes later. His eight points combined with Cameron Satterwhite's five points in the third quarter pushed the lead to double digits.
"If we came out more aggressive and stuck to our game plan, we'd be fine," Reyes said of the halftime adjustments. "That was it. We felt we were a little better team."
Reyes finished with 17 points, five rebounds and six assists. Sam Jones had 12 points and seven rebounds, and Dylan Bliss (13 points) made three 3-pointers in a 90-second span between the first and second quarter for Gilbert Christian (31-3).
Widner led Valley Christian with 14 points, but Gilbert Christian's effective double teams in the second half held him to two points inside after halftime. Gentry had 12 points but the Trojans were 3 of 16 shooting from behind the arc.
"They were just efficient with the ball in the second half offensively and we weren't," Valley Christian coach Greg Haagsma said.
Five teams from Section 3 of Division III made the state tournament quarterfinals, and while the Trojans were optimistic Friday night about their chances against Gilbert Christian coming in - all three matchups were close games this season won by Gilbert Christian - the competition was what mattered most to reach this point.
"We're very proud of this group," Haagsma said. "Similar to others who made the finals (early and mid-2000s) this was one of those hardest-working teams we've had."
Valley Christian relies on playing Division I and II schools in tournaments for this type of competition, while Gilbert Christian will see more of it in moving up a division.
But the Knights had only one graduating senior (Bliss) in the starting lineup, so Division II better be prepared.
"I'm taking this home and putting it in my room, keeping it, and hopefully putting another one next to it," Reyes said while holding a small piece of the net they'd just cut down.
Gilbert Christian 60, Valley Christian 48
VC 8 17 10 13 -- 48
GC 15 17 19 9 -- 60
Valley Christian: Chavez 2, Gentry 12, Mauer 7, Haagsma 9, Widner 14, O'Brien 2, Temple 2
Gilbert Christian: Reyes 17, Jones 12, Bliss 13, Ranger 6, Delterne 2, White 2, Phillips 4, Satterwhite 4
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.