Last week, Gilbert boys basketball coach Jay Caserio was lamenting all the late leads his team had given up this year by missing free throws, and hoped the trend would change in the second half of the season.
That wish was granted, at least for a night.
The fifth-ranked Tigers buried all eight of their free throw attempts in the final 33.7 seconds to hold on for a 66-62 victory over host Dobson in a Division I matchup Friday night.
Gilbert (16-5) took a two-point lead on a put-back lay-up by Truman Moore with 1:07 remaining, and after Conner Helvig forced a turnover to get the ball back, the Tigers calmly sank the free throws, never allowing the Mustangs within one possession.
“Can you believe that?” Caserio said. “The first half of the year we had leads like that late and lost four out of five games just because we couldn’t put the ball in the hole...It kind of evened out a little bit I guess tonight.”
Dobson’s best chance came with 18.4 seconds remaining when Brian Nichols scored a lay-up and was fouled. The bucket cut the deficit to 62-60, but his free throw rolled off and Spencer Nicolds and Andre Mauro each hit a pair from the charity stripe to clinch the victory.
The Tigers were led by sophomore forward Truman Moore, who had 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks before exiting with a knee injury when he fouled Nichols late.
Ryan Richardson had 20 points on 8-of-10 from the field to lead Dobson (14-8), which has now lost two in a row. The Mustangs were without leading scorer Jaron Hopkins against Desert Ridge on Tuesday and he didn’t plan to play in this one until a pep talk from coach Rick McConnell’s sons, Mickey and Matt.
Hopkins grabbed shoes from his car and didn’t reach the bench until two minutes had elapsed in the first quarter.
He finished with 11 points, nine rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Kodi Justice is also sick as the Mustangs are hoping to survive this stretch without dropping too much in the power point standings.
Dobson plays Highland on Monday in the MLK Basketball Classic.
“We need to get everybody healthy, we need to get everybody back going,” McConnell said. “If we can do that, I’ve been really pleased with the way we’ve been playing.”