Posted On: 11/23/19 9:00 AM

The first night of the regular season brought a ton of excitement as we saw a matchup between two top ten teams. The #6 Gilbert Tigers traveled to take on the #4 Ballard Bombers in a game where each basket was critical. Both teams started hot from the floor as the first quarter ended with the guest in front, 19-15. In the second quarter both teams cooled off, however.

Ballard scored nine straight in the second frame before Gilbert got on the board with a free throw by sophomore Ava Hawthorne. Ballard’s defense stepped up to give them the 28-25 lead going into the half as they held Gilbert to just six second-quarter points.

It looked as if Ballard was going to gain all the momentum in the third quarter as Hawthorne picked up her fourth foul with 4:35 left in the quarter. Six seconds later Ballard converted an and-1 opportunity to take a 37-30 lead in the game. It looked as if they seized momentum, but Gilbert regrouped went on a run to tie it heading into the fourth quarter 39-39.

In the fourth quarter, Gilbert made more plays than Ballard and although Ballard had a few looks inside of two minutes to tie it, nothing would fall. A few critical offensive rebounds for Gilbert and clutch free-throw shooting led them to the season-opening win, 52-45. I look at some stats and five takeaways from the game below.

Ballard’s Trap Defense is Going to Lead Them to Wins

Ballard didn’t use their full-court trap the entire game like we are accustomed to seeing but they used it very well. Against teams without many good ball handlers like Gilbert, the press is going to wear teams out. Ballard flies to the ball and are constantly looking to tip passes and turn it into easy buckets. Don’t be surprised to see some lopsided scores from Ballard this season.

Gilbert Has Multiple Weapons on Offense

A lot of people might think that Gilbert is a one-man show with Hawthorne as our #3 prospect in the 2022 class. That just isn’t the case as seen tonight. Junior Emma Bulman has improved a ton since last year, Katie Currans hit three 3-pointers in a row, and junior Thea Rotto was able to score it in the post. Gilbert was able to win the game and Hawthorne didn’t make a shot from the field. That just shows you how talented the entire roster is this season.

Emma Bulman and Brooke Loewe Looked Much Improved

Both Bulman and sophomore Brooke Loewe looked much improved from last year. Bulman is going to be a very key player for Gilbert this season. She was aggressive all night long and she was also getting to the rim with ease at times. Bulman is a mismatch because she can step out and hit the deep ball when a big is on her and she can outmuscle smaller guards inside. She’s going to have a big year this season. Loewe is going to be the go-to scorer for Ballard for much of the season. Loewe’s shot has gotten quicker and her release looks much better. While you’d generally like to see more arc on the shot, Loewe has her shot down and quite often finds the bottom of the net. She was very good off the catch and has a big season ahead of her.

Cassidy Thompson Might be A Difference Maker

Thompson is going to be a nightmare for opposing teams. She is one of the best shot blockers in the state and came away with five blocked shots against Gilbert. In their press she is going to feast on sending back, shots when teams break the press. Thompson is going to end up putting up a couple baskets a game making her very valuable on both ends. She finished the game with seven points, seven rebounds, and four blocks.

Both of These Teams Will Make Deep Runs

This game showed us a lot about both of these teams. For Gilbert, it showed that they can win games against good opponents even when their best players aren’t playing their best. Freshman Sydney Lynch and junior Nessa Johnson were two players who didn’t find the stat sheet often but helped them win the game. When Hawthorne isn’t hitting, there is enough ammo in the tank to win games. For Ballard, I think that their defense is going to win them games. They played well but just missed a few key baskets at paramount times. If you compare both rosters, I think you’d see that Ballard, overall, is likely the more talented team, but they need a go-to scorer to step up. Once they figure out who will be able to get them buckets in tight contests, they are going to be full-speed ahead.

Five Best Stat Lines
Emma Bulman (Gilbert): 14 points (4/8 FG), 9 rebounds
Molly Ihle (Ballard): 12 points, 7 assists, 7 steals, 6 rebounds
Brooke Loewe (Ballard): 11 points (3/7 3FG)
Josie Fleischmann (Ballard): 9 points (3/4 3FG)
Thea Rotto (Gilbert): 9 points, 9 rebounds