It was the second consecutive meeting between the teams in the state tournament. Last season, the Lions defeated the Bison 71-60 before falling to Wheeling Central in the semifinals.
“We are excited about the win tonight and going back to the semifinals,” Gilbert coach Jerry Miller said. “It’s been a great year for us and we are just going to go battle and hope that we can get into the championship game.”
The Lions don’t have worry about the Maroon Knights this year, but they will face the team responsible for upsetting the Associated Press Class A top-ranked team in the state.
The Lions will face the fifth-seed Bishop Donahue Bishops Friday afternoon at 1. The Bishops advanced to the semifinals with a 63-47 victory over the fourth-seed Tucker Mountain Lions in Wednesday’s first game of the evening session.
The Bishops got a record-breaking performance from 6-7 senior center Kenneth Barrows. Barrows registered a triple-double with 15 points, 13 rebounds and a state tournament record 11 blocks.
“They have a real good basketball team and they are real athletic,” Miller said. “They got a guy inside which is about the same height as Josh so that is going to be a real good matchup between those two.”
The Lions led by 18 n 40-22 n on Josh Birchfield’s tip-in just before the first half buzzer. However, the Bison would not quit, cutting the deficit to nine, 42-33, with 3:49 to play in the third quarter, forcing Miller to call timeout.
The Lions responded with an 8-2 run to close the third quarter, taking a 15-point lead, 50-35, into the final quarter.
“We just called the timeout to settle things down a little bit and kick the ball back inside, which was what got us the lead to begin with,” Miller said. “The kids listened and responded very well. We started getting the ball back inside and pulled the lead back out again.”
Gilbert ended any hopes of a Buffalo comeback with an 8-2 run to start the fourth quarter to give the Lions their largest lead of the game at 21
points, 58-37, with 5:09 to play.
The Gilbert lead never dipped below 19 points after that and ballooned to 23, 64-41, after Cody Houck’s jumper with 1:10 in the game.
Following a Corey Good 3-pointer with 39 seconds left, crowd favorite Anthony Gibson set the final score on a layup with five seconds left.
“It was probably the loudest roar we heard all night when Anthony scored,” Miller said. “Our fans supported us real well and they all love Anthony as much as we do. You can see how much excitement he brings and for us to even get him on the court, we were happy about that and then for him to score that is just an added pleasure for us.”
Josh Birchfield led the way for Gilbert with a double-double, 21 points and 10 rebounds. Brad Rawls registered a double-double as well with 10 points and 19 rebounds while Gilbert’s lone senior Jeremy Brown scored 14 points to go along with six assists.
The Lions got off to a sluggish start as the Bison jumped out to a 9-7 lead, but Gilbert erased that lead with a 12-5 run to close the first quarter with a 19-14 lead.
“I think we were a little bit anxious and we were playing a little bit out of control,” Miller said. “We called a timeout to just settle them down and tell them to kick the ball inside. I think once we done that it changed the tempo of the game.”
The Lions extended the lead to 10, 24-14, on a 3-pointer by Justin Browning with 6:55 to play before halftime, but the Bison closed to within six, 26-20, on Justin Raynes 3-pointer with 4:29 to play.
From there it would be all Gilbert as the Lions outscored the Bison 14-2 to gain control of the contest. Gilbert connected on 59.3 percent of its shots in the first half including 5-of-10 from 3-point range.
The Lions’ ability to knock the triple opened the door for points in the paint where Gilbert outscored Buffalo 18-0 in the first half.
“It made it easier to get the ball inside to him,” Miller said. “I thought Jeremy Brown shot the ball real good and Jay and Quinn were able to hit a couple of 3’s and when you can do that it makes it easier to go inside.”
Buffalo only made 29.6 percent of its shots in the first half and 29.8 percent for the game as the Bison ended the year with a 12-13 record.
Gilbert used a mix of man-to-man and zone defense to hold Adam Scott to 15 points. Scott was averaging close to 21 points a contest, but struggled shooting the ball as he was 6-of-21 from the field.
Garrett Burdette and Raynes each had 11 for the Bison to join Scott in double figures.
Josh Gilchrist had four and Good finished with three.
Quinn Miller, playing with a virus since the sectionals, had nine points while Blake Burgess had five, Browning finished with three and Gibson and Houck each had two points for the 26-0 Lions.
Gilbert made 45.8 percent of its shots while outrebounding Buffalo 49-27, including a 16-8 advantage on the offensive glass and used its size advantage to outscore Buffalo 36-12 in the paint. The Lions were 7-of-11 from the foul line after making just 5-of-28 attempts against Tug Valley in the regional finals.
“I think we shot from the free-throw line pretty good,” Miller said. “A lot better than the last game, that’s for sure.”