PHILADELPHIA >> Paige Gilbert had a job to do Saturday afternoon and she did it really, really well.
When Emily Spratt, usually the Central Bucks West player tasked to cover the other team’s top option, picked up her second foul in the first quarter, the Bucks turned to Gilbert. All the junior had to do was shadow Pennsbury’s leading scorer Ava Sciolla and keep her from doing any damage.
Gilbert had a job to do, so she went and did it.
“She’s obviously an amazing player and we wanted to take her out of the game so she couldn’t fuel their offense,” Gibert said. “Basically, it was our job to shut her down so she couldn’t perform her best which is a very hard task because she’s so good.”
Gilbert and the Bucks held Sciolla scoreless in the second quarter and the Falcons to just one point in the frame. It wasn’t something they could do all game and Sciolla got her points in the second half to finish with a game-high 18 but there was little doubt what that effort in the second quarter meant to West’s victory.
There was some discussion earlier this postseason just how tall Gilbert is, given her penchant for grabbing critical rebounds over bigger players and the way she slides into the lane at just the right time to pick up a charge. That’s been settled, she is 5-foot-8, but Gilbert joked she certainly is the shortest of the team’s five starters.
She’s also not a full-time basketball player. Her main sport is lacrosse and as a superb midfielder, is right now committed to play at William & Mary but even with lacrosse tryouts starting on Monday, she’s all-in on this basketball thing right now.
“Lacrosse isn’t a very physical sport, you can’t really push or anything so I think that’s why I’m good at keeping my hands back,” Gilbert said, before adding with a smirk, “there are also charges in lacrosse.”
GIRLS BASKETBALL: @cbwgbb @pgilbert110 drives and finishes Q3 against Pennsbury pic.twitter.com/22pxBRl9ow
— Andrew Robinson (@ADRobinson3) March 1, 2020
All second quarter Saturday, even as the Pennsbury bench was pleading for some kind of foul, Gilbert stayed glued to Sciolla. Not close to actually make contact, but hovering right there as to deflect a pass or usually, just deny the ball to the versatile guard.
“We did it by coming together,” Gilbert said. “I knew my team was there to help. If she went back door, everybody was there knowing we all had to watch out for her.”
Gilbert almost went out of her way to deflect credit for the job done defensively.
“It’s all communication,” Gilbert said. “If someone went up to screen me, my teammates were yelling ‘screen’ so I knew to go around it and follow right behind her. I was not taking my eyes off her and doing something like stare at the ball.”
The West junior did a lot more than just defend for her team Saturday. She scored 10 points, tied for the team lead and hit four of the six foul shots she took in the fourth quarter with all coming in key spots.
She was her usual effective self on the glass, grabbing six rebounds with three on the offensive end, added a steal and even managed to slip in for a pair of charges. Her second came at a key point, forcing a Falcons turnover with 1:43 left in the game and she would grab an important defensive rebound a few plays later.
“We’ve talked about May since defense being our identity and that’s really a testament to this group of girls,” West coach Zach Sibel said. “It’s easy to play defense when you’re making shots. To see them lock in defensively, especially that second quarter, was awesome and it was them saying they know they can get stops and get rebounds.”
The Bucks aren’t a “numbers” team, nobody cares who finishes with what and Gilbert’s own assessment of what she considers a successful outing is quite simple.
“Whenever we play well,” she said. “I might not play my best but if the team plays well, I don’t care.”