You don’t know it until you see.
At least that’s how first-year Gilbert Christian head coach Kurt Keener described Shadow Mountain’s pressing, swarming defense.
After adjusting to the style, the Knights finished with a flurry of style points beating top-seed and defending Division-II State Champion Shadow Mountain 87-74 Saturday afternoon in Glendale.
“We’ve played all year with difference types of adversity,” Keener told Sports360AZ.com after the big win. We’ve mixed our lineups up. We’ve played big, small. So those kinds of things weren’t going to phase us.”
Keener and his staff substituted frequently after star forward Mitch Lightfoot committed his second foul in the first quarter. Mike Bibby’s Matadors got 53 of their 74 points from guard Craig Randall and forward JJ Rhymes but had no answer defensively for Colorado-commit Cameron Satterwhite who finished with a team-high 21 points. He added six rebounds and four assists as the bigger Knights out-rebounded Shadow 44-37 and won going away.
“We wanted [Randall and Rhymes] to beat us, not have the role players step up,” reserve guard Dontez Thomas who scored 17 explained. “Before the game we just told each other we’re in this together…we’re going to finish it together.”
Lightfoot finished with a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and front-court mate Tony Licavoli scored 16 and added four blocks. Gilbert Christian controlled the points in the paint 48-28. Four Knights scored at least 12 points and GC’s bench outscored Shadow’s 24-7.
“Our kids responded well,” Keener said. “They just believed in themselves. At this stage of the season confidence is such a big thing.”
He and his staff will be sure to remind the deep, talented Knights not to be too overconfident as they face 10-seed Arcadia in the title game Monday night at 6:00.