Gilbert Christian boys basketball cruises into semifinals

Gilbert Christian boys basketball cruises into semifinals

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Gilbert Christian boys basketball cruises into semifinals

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PRESCOTT VALLEY – Top-ranked Gilbert Christian didn’t need any help entering Monday’s Division III boys basketball quarterfinal at Tim’s Toyota Center.

Then, moments before taking the court, it found out Phoenix Cortez guard Jorrell Smith, the leading scorer in Division III at 26 points a game, was not playing.

Defending state champion Gilbert Christian raced out to a 14-5 lead in the first five minutes with four 3-pointers – two each by Dylan Bliss and Sam Jones – and cruised into the state semifinals with a 68-37 victory.

Smith’s 28 points in a victory Saturday over Florence moved Cortez into the quarterfinals. But Cortez coach Tarik James said before the game that Smith had become academically ineligible.

Even if Smith was on the court, Cortez faced an uphill battle against a tall, athletic team that has dominated just about everyone in Division III and lost its only three games to three top D.I schools – Tempe Corona del Sol, Phoenix Pinnacle and Phoenix Brophy Prep.

“We watched tons of film of him,” Gilbert Christian coach Jerome Joseph said. “We thought we had our work cut out for us.”

The plan to have Roberto Reyes, Gilbert Christian’s top defender, on Smith was scrapped at tip-off.

Cortez (20-7) scored the game’s first five points, before Gilbert Christian went on a 14-0 run. Freshman guard Cameron Satterwhite came off the bench late in the first quarter and promptly nailed a 3 for a 17-7 lead.

Gilbert Christian made seven 3s in the half with Jones connecting on three of them. Jones, a 6-foot-7 junior wing, finished with 21 points and four 3-pointers.

“We packed it and continually made the extra pass,” Joseph said. “That’s one of our strengths, the ability to make the extra pass.”

Gilbert Christian (28-3) next plays No. 3-seed Scottsdale Christian in a 4:30 p.m. semifinal Friday at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale. This will be the first time the schools have ever met in a boys basketball game.

“That’s a well-coached team,” Joseph said. “They know about us. We know about them.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a battle.”

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