Gilbert's 1st-half excellence guides win over Sunrise Mtn.
March 13, 2021 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
It was one of those nights when a first half of
basketball by a team was good enough to register a victory no matter how
hard the opponent tried the second half to overcome.
#4 Gilbert raced to a 41-20 lead at halftime Saturday night and was the
impetus to the Tigers' 71-60 triumph over No. #12 Sunrise Mountain in a 5A
boys quarterfinal at The Jungle
Gilbert (16-3) earned a semifinal berth Thursday (March 18) against #1
seed Centennial at Centennial. Centennial advanced with a 67-55 win over
#9 Cactus Shadows. The semi will be a rematch from the season-opener won
by Centennial, 51-45. Sunrise Mountain finished 11-10 with all of its
losses to 5A and playoff teams and 6A Liberty. The Mustangs can be proud
of their all-out effort in the second half for coach Gary Rath even if it
Gilbert's guard tandem of junior Nikko Pentelute and senior Tampa Scott
excelled as usual. Pentelute scored 25 points, crashed the boards and did
his share of ball-handling. Scott had a bigger night offensively than
normal scoring 20 points and running the Tiger offense.
"Our first half was the difference, no doubt," Gilbert coach Jay Caserio
said. "We had one turnover, were plus-8 in rebounding and made shots.
Proud of our guys hanging in the second half when some funky stuff was
going on. I don't think I've ever seen Nikko miss two free throws in a
row. They came at us hard. They play hard for Gary. They made it tough on
Gilbert's shooting the first half was exceptional - 61 percent making 17
of 28 from the field. Pentelute had 15 of his 25 points in the first half
and Scott 12 of his 20. Scott was 4 for 4 in the second period. Sunrise
Mountain made only 2 of 9 shots in the opening quarter and trailed 15-5.
"I liked our shot selection early, they weren't going down," Rath said.
"They kept increasing the lead and I used a couple timeouts to try and
slow them. We seemed to tense up after the first few minutes and couldn't
keep the deficit from being manageable. If you can stay within eight or 10
when things are going bad that's what you'd take. Down 20 at half was just
Sunrise Mountain was forced to double team to force turnovers and had to
foul often since the Tigers ended up with only six turnovers for the game.
The Mustangs didn't make a major dent in the deficit until the final
minute. A layup by leading scorer Colin Carey (team-high 23 points) with
1:09 to play made it 68-60. Sunrise Mountain didn't score again. Gilbert
limped to the final buzzer making one of two free throws three times in
the final minute. That capped 10-of-21 free-throw shooting by the Tigers
the final eight minutes.
5A San Tan Region
All Conference Selections
2020 - 2021
Player of the Year (POY)
Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY)
Tampa Scott IV
Coach of the Year (COY)
First Team All-Region
Nikko Pentelute, Jr. - Gilbert
Tampa Scott IV, Sr. - Gilbert
Isaiah Kai, So. - Campo Verde
Montez Taylor, Sr. - Williams Field
Leroy Williams, Sr. - Williams Field
Second Team All-Region
Carson Ledbetter, Jr. - Casteel
Jace Reed, Sr. - Campo Verde
Carter Korab, Sr. - Gilbert
Colbie Morgan, Sr. - Higley
Drey Sherwood, Sr. - Casteel
Honorable Mention All-Region
Reed Shuey, Jr. - Gilbert
JJ Newcombe, Fr. - Casteel
Kyle Miller, Sr. - Campo Verde
James Aschenbrener, Sr. - Campo Verde
Kameron Bender, Jr. - Higley
Gilbert edges Campo Verde in last-second win
March 5, 2021 by Shawn DePaz, Arizona State University
Just like the last time the Gilbert and Campo Verde met
-- when it took two overtimes to decide a winner -- Thursday's game came
down to the final seconds as the Tigers posted a 58-57 win.
A free throw by Trey Hollis with one second left was the game-winner.
On Gilbert’s Senior Night in front of a crowd packed with parents and a
raucous student section, it was senior guard Tampa Scott who shined in the
first half for the Tigers (13-3). He led the team with 15 first-half
points, including three 3-pointers.
“I just came out trying to be aggressive,” Scott said. “A couple times the
ball got swung to me and I just let it go."
Tigers coach Jay Caserio started five of his seniors in the final regular
season home game of their careers. While some players got their first
starts of the season, Scott remained in his normal starting role.
“Our lineup was a little funky at the beginning, and Tampa had us going
pretty good,” Caserio said.
At the end of the first half, Gilbert led 33-26, but by the time the
fourth quarter came around, Campo Verde had tied the game. The Coyotes
were led by guards Isaiah Kai and Cohen Ferguson, who scored 17 and 15
Despite their performances, Campo Verde (8-7) fell short in the final
With 3.5 seconds left on the clock and the game tied at 57, Campo Verde
turned the ball over on an inbound play and fouled Hollis to send him to
the free throw line where he made the first shot on a one-and-one.
Hollis said that he did not expect a chance to win the game for his team.
“I was really just trying to get the ball so it could go to OT,” Hollis
But when he did get to the line, with only one second remaining and the
game on the line, Hollis was prepared for the moment.
“Free throws are a key part of basketball. I’ve been shooting free throws
my whole life.” Hollis said, “Just keep to myself, thinking that it's
nothing more than a free throw in practice.”
Gilbert defeats Higley with second half surge
March 2, 2021 by James Franks, Arizona State University
When they met on Jan. 26, Gilbert trounced Higley,
70-40. Things were much different on Tuesday.
The Tigers (12-3) held a slim 39-38 lead at halftime before pulling away
with a 78-69 victory over the Knights (9-8).
After the close first half, the Tigers put an emphasis on defensive
strategy when they returned to the court for the second half.
“Our ball screen defense was our No. 1 key and it wasn't very good in the
first half,” Gilbert coach Jay Caserio said. “They (Higley) were 9 of 10
from the 3-point line (in the first half) and just kind of killed us. We
switched our ball screen defense slightly in the second half and I think
The enhancement of defensive play for the Tigers allowed them to build a
60-52 at the end of the third quarter.
Junior guard Nikko Pentelute shined for Gilbert as he was able to score
from the 3-point line, in the paint and make his free throws for a total
of 20 points. Pentelute was prepared to take on the Higley defense.
“In our scouting report, our coach talked to us about getting downhill,
getting to the lane and hitting shots in there,” he said. “So I took the
coach’s scouting report and our team did a great job of doing that.”
Sophomore Chuck Bailey made five 3-pointers and led the scoring for Higley
with 27 points.
The Knights continued to compete with Gilbert in the fourth quarter by
completing six shots and making four free throws. But Higley committed 11
fouls in the fourth quarter and Gilbert made 16 of 19 free throws, which
kept the margin from changing.
Higley coach Kenneth Drake was impressed with how his team competed
against Gilbert. However, Higley’s strong performance did not last long
“Both teams came out with a lot of energy,” he said. “I just told the team
that we did not lose the game. We just ran out of time.”
Both teams play their next game against Campo Verde (8-6). Gilbert will
host the Coyotes at 7 p.m. Thursday while Higley will travel to Campo
Verde on Friday at 7 p.m.
Gilbert and Higley are ready and looking forward to playing Campo Verde.
“We're (Gilbert) going to be locked in,” Pentelute said. “They want to
beat us so bad. We are their crosstown rivals.”
The last time Gilbert and Campo Verde met on Jan. 29, the game went into
double overtime with the Tigers winning 74-72.
Drake feels confident in his team's chances after winning 64-60 in their
previous meeting on Feb. 2. “I think we'll come out victorious,” he said.
The loss puts Higley in third place of the 5A San Tan region with a region
record of 3-4.
Gilbert’s victory keeps the Tigers in first place of the 5A San Tan region
with a region record of 6-0.
Steadfast Gilbert trims Millennium
February 26, 2021 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
From the opening tip Friday, signs pointed to a
frustrating evening for Gilbert High in its match-up with Millennium. It
trailed Millennium almost all night falling back, inching closer and
falling back time and again.
Maintaining its will throughout, however, a five-point swing in 24 seconds
in the final three minutes allowed Gilbert to forge ahead and hold on to
the finish in a hard-fought 53-47 triumph over visiting Millennium in a 5A
Gilbert, No. 4 in the 5A power rankings, improved to 11-3 while
Millennium, currently No. 17, dropped its second tough loss in as many
nights to fall to 7-6. Its loss Thursday was to 6A No. 1 Sunnyslope by
four points. Millennium was the 5A runner-up each of the past two seasons.
"We showed a lot of stick-to-it-iveness tonight," Gilbert coach Jay
Caserio said. "We had good shots early and didn't make many. The guys kept
battling and didn't let their effort get away. The last three or four
minutes were really good for us."
What possibly could have played on Gilbert's mind before inching ahead
late? Quite a bit.
An early 8-2 deficit. Down 12-8 after eight minutes. Falling back 19-10
midway through the second quarter. Pulling within 23-19 just before the
half. Leaving at intermission down 25-19. Never in front.
Second half opens and down eight points the first two minutes of play. A
glimmer of hope as the quarter ends. A tying three-point shot rims out.
Gilbert behind, but within 36-33. Still never in a lead even for a few
The fourth-quarter scoring began with a pair of threes from the top of the
key by Millennium freshman guard Gabe Pickens (team-high 14 points) plus a
free throw by teammate Coleman Fields (13 points). Gilbert's answer were a
pair of twos that saw its deficit increase to 43-37.
Gilbert then summoned its best run of the game - 9-0 - to take command.
The key plays were a steal by senior and defensive standout Tampa Scott
that finished with his two free throws to pull Gilbert even at 43 with
2:44 left. With a defensive stop next time down, Gilbert was on the run.
Junior guard Elijah Johnson, who struggled from three-point range
in the first half, quickly sank his second trey for Gilbert's first lead
(46-43) and lead for good with 2:20 to go. Teammate Nikko Pentelute
(game-high 19 points) scored seven points in the fourth quarter, five in
the final 1:26.
Gilbert finishes strong to overcome Corona del Sol
February 15, 2021 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
Crunch time in Monday night's battle between 6A Corona
del Sol and 5A Gilbert wasn't decided so much by the physical part of the
game as it was the mental portion.
second half and through the middle of the fourth quarter was as good a
quarter or stretch as we've played in some time," Corona del Sol coach
Neil MacDonald said. "We lost our composure the last three and half
minutes and that was the game. They took advantage."
A 17-7 Gilbert run in the span MacDonald described indeed was the Aztecs
downfall as the host Tigers came away 62-53 victors at Tiger Gymnasium.
Gilbert (9-2) has won nine of its last 10 games and its previous outing
last Friday was on the road at 5A No. 1 Ironwood, who the Tigers knocked
Gilbert produced balance on the offensive end, led by junior guard Nikko
Pentelute's 19 points. Pentelute made several nice plays on both ends
during the Tigers' game-clinching stretch. Three teammates scored in
double figures - sophomore KJ Perry (11 points) and junior guard Elijah
Johnson and senior wing Carter Korab with 10 points apiece. Corona del
Sol's Elijah McDaniel tied for game-high honors with 19 points, 13 in the
second half. The Aztecs Brandon Lee finished with 13 points.
Corona del Sol (3-7) had gradually worked its way back from a 12-3 deficit
early in the second quarter to lead a good part of the third period and it
seesawed for the lead with Gilbert the first four minutes of the final
quarter. Brandon Lee , who scored nine points in the first half all from
three-point range, drove the lane hard and scored with 3:54 to go for the
fifth of six lead changes in the period to give Corona its final lead
Less than a minute later Gilbert was back up 49-46 thanks to the second of
two fourth-quarter threes by Johnson and free throw by Korab. The Aztecs
had possession at the point, but a steal by Pentelute didn't please
Corona's Roberto Yellowman, who was issued a technical foul for voicing
his displeasure at a lack of a foul call. Pentelute made the technical
free throws with three minutes left and followed it up with short jumper
with 2:36 to play putting Gilbert up, 53-46. A three-point play by Trey
Hollis and two more Pentelute free throws put the Aztecs in a 58-47 hole
with a minute left.
"I was proud of the way we fought back after the first quarter," MacDonald
said. "I really thought we had a chance to pull this one out."
Gilbert coach Jay Caserio, pleased with the finish, wasn't so much about
the overall product.
"Corona's guard play hurt us," Caserio said. "They can wiggle to get
through the lane and hit some threes. Our guys didn't seem ready. They
made us pay in some of the middle stretches tonight."
Gilbert’s 3 captains share championship mindset
By Zach Alvira, GSN Sports Editor Feb 2, 2021
It’s been two years since Gilbert High School’s
basketball team stood atop the 5A Conference as champions.
Most players from that championship team, including co-captains Doc Self
and Carson Towt, have since moved on to compete at the collegiate level.
But three players still remain on the varsity roster, all of which learned
from Self and Towt how to become better leaders.
having stepped into those leadership roles, senior guard Tampa Scott,
senior forward Karter Doucette and junior guard Nikko Pentelute are the
ones new players lean upon for direction.
“When someone isn’t doing what we want them to do or in the way we do it,
they tell them instead of me,” Gilbert coach Jay Caserio said. “Drills, or
in the hallway or in campus, just how we treat each other on campus,
they’re telling them all of that.”
Each captain brings their own unique skill set to the team both on and off
Scott, a 5-foot-11 guard, encompasses much of the same attributes Self had
at Gilbert. His court vision and shiftiness with the ball in his hands
sets up teammates for open shots. When needed, however, he’s able to shoot
from anywhere on the floor. On defense, he utilizes his speed and quick
hands to force errant passes and turnovers, often leading to fast-break
points on the other end.
While he isn’t the most vocal leader of the bunch, younger players feed
off the example he sets both in practice and games.
“I think in practices, obviously I have my bad days, but whether we are
doing sprints or other things I get everybody ready to go and bring them
all together,” Scott said. “Leading by example is my thing, whether that’s
hitting shots or making plays. If someone has a question about something,
they can come to me.”
Much like Scott, Pentelute also has a similar skill set to Self. He is
often on the receiving end of assists from Scott and can connect on shots
from anywhere on the court.
Caserio said the 6-foot-1 junior guard brings a different level of
intensity to the team and has become the vocal leader. His ability to step
into that type of role came from his freshman year learning under Self,
who was known to be a boisterous presence in the locker room and weight
So much that the team has since named his favorite exercise — the battle
ropes — after him. They’re now known as “Docos.”
“It was the one exercise Doc could really be as loud as he wanted, and
that’s what I see in myself,” Pentelute said. “I love being loud and if
someone isn’t doing something, we call them out in the right way. It’s a
constructive criticism type of thing.
“Our team is made up mostly of juniors and being a junior myself it’s easy
for me to kind of take them under my wing, especially since it’s their
first time on varsity for most of them.”
Doucette, the 6-foot-3 senior forward who started for the Gilbert football
team as linebacker and wide receiver, brings a physical presence inside
the paint for the Tigers.
Much like Scott and Pentelute did learning under Self, Doucette took after
Towt, who since graduating from Gilbert transferred to Northern Arizona as
a walk-on and this month was put on full scholarship. Doucette said his
talent on the gridiron has translated well to the hardwood. “I’m more
physical with everybody and it helps my confidence, personally,” Doucette
said. “It helps to be strong with the ball and vocally, because you have
to have that mentality of being physical or someone else is going to be
more physical to you.”
The trio still recalls Gilbert’s championship with ease. And there’s a
constant reminder of what the program is capable of on a banner hanging in
the gym known as “The Jungle” to Gilbert faithful.
Despite having a team filled mostly with players who were either not part
of the program or at the lower level two years ago, they all believe the
pieces are in place to make yet another run at the title.
Gilbert defense clamps down on Casteel, 55-27
January 22, 2021 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365
Gilbert's boys basketball team is showcasing new faces
- more than in the past two seasons - so it may take time for them to get
their footing. A good start came Friday night in its home opener with San
Tan Region rival Casteel.
Led by a relentless defense, Gilbert's second-half domination proved
lethal in a 55-27 romp. The win evened Gilbert's record at 1-1 while
Casteel fell to 0-3 in its first week under new coach Aaron Windler.
"Our defense was really good, I think they scored nine points in the
second half," Gilbert coach Jay Caserio said. "I thought the on-the-ball
defense by Tampa (Scott) and KJ (Perry) was outstanding. We were good in
the first half and a lot of times its hard to sustain that. Tonight it
might have been even better in the second half."
Tampa Scott, a senior in his third varsity season, is Gilbert's clear-cut
leader and lone returning starter.
"Tampa, he's got to be our guy," Caserio said. "Unselfish. He distributes
the ball well, and the defense he plays is unbelieveable."
Defense has been his forte all along and it seemed contagious as the rest
of the Tigers followed suit not matter their position on the floor.
Gilbert limited Casteel to 11 of 43 shooting from the field (26 percent).
Scott contributed nine points sinking three treys. The only other player
with a decent amount of varsity experience - Nikko Pentelute - chimed in
with eight points. Two of his baskets were threes.
Perry, a lightning quick sophomore, was the Tigers' first player off the
bench. His trey as time ran out in the first half bumped Gilbert's lead to
28-18. The Tigers' advantage would never dip below double digits the rest
of the game. They outscored Casteel, 27-9, in the second half. For the
game Casteel made 11 of 43 shots (26 percent), and only one three.
Perry and newcomer via out-of-state transfer Carter Korab tied for
game-high scoring honors with 14 points apiece. Korab, a 6-foot-6 senior,
has made an impression in his first two games. He grabbed 17 rebounds in
the Tigers' season-opening loss at Centennial and will be a double-digit
Rounding out the contributions of the starters was 6-6 junior post Reed
Shuey. Shuey netted eight points and was on the finish of a pair of
second-half transition baskets.
Top scorers for Casteel were Tyson Coleman with eight points and Liam Burt
with seven. Casteel endured a pair of six-point losses prior to Friday,
bowing to Higley and Red Mountain.