WINSTED — Gilbert’s boys basketball team (1-2) snapped out of a two-game opening funk for its first win of the season, bringing The Hive to full buzz as the Yellowjackets gave Lewis Mills (2-1) its first loss, 57-55, Friday night at The Gilbert School.
“In the first two games, we all had an attitude toward each other,” said Hunter Smith, who had 15 points and five assists. “Tonight, we had our heads on straight.”
“We worked as a team, looking for the best man for the shot,” said Joe Brugmann, who led all scorers with 27 points.”
“It was intensity,” said Coach Mark Douglass. “We’ve adopted the slogan, ‘We is greater than me.’ ”
The Spartans lost starting point guard Matt Geissler to two broken wrists in their opening game against Thomaston, then lost another key guard, Alex Gallager, to a broken ankle in practice.
“We’re a team, so we all come together,” said Coach Jim Barone, whose team was one of the preseason Berkshire League favorites behind Division V finalist Wamogo.
Friday, that meant relying on their big men, Josh Schibi (25 points) and Aiden Sullivan (21) for all but nine of their points.
Gilbert players proved to themselves and, ultimately, Mills, that more is better, despite Schibi’s and Sullivan’s sometimes dazzling display.
The Yellowjackets’ defense and fast breaks earned them an 11-8 edge in the first quarter, then a barrage of four 3s kept them on pace with Schibi and Sullivan opening up inside in the second.
At the half, Gilbert clung to its three-point margin, 31-28.
Intensity notched up in the third quarter as the Spartans proved they, too, can run. Sullivan and Schibi combined for 15 points, giving Mills a 45-42 lead moving into the final period.
That’s when Gilbert’s defense rose up for good in a game in which Brugmann (eight steals), Ryley Weiss (four) and Connor Bailey (three) combined for 15 steals. The Yellowjackets held Schibi to just two foul shots in the final quarter.
Tied 55-55 with 1:06 left, Smith added one more steal, hitting Brugmann for a fast break that put the Yellowjackets two points ahead with 14 seconds to go.
With fouls to spare before hitting the one-and-one mark, Yellowjacket coaches ate precious seconds by ordering non-shooting fouls.
Finally, with eight seconds left, Gilbert’s Dylan Crowley blocked a last-ditch Mills 3-point attempt to seal the game.
“Dylan didn’t score all game. I told him, ‘Players have to find a way to win,’ ” Coach Douglass said.
Crowley’s final bit of defense put the win in Gilbert’s book.
Gilbert 57, Lewis Mills 55
At The Gilbert School
Lewis Mills 8 20 17 10 — 55
Gilbert 11 20 11 15 — 57
Lewis Mills (55): Colby Norton 0-1-1; Tim Groleau 0-1-1; Nate DiChiara 2-2-7; Aiden Sullivan 9-3-21; Josh Schibi 9-5-25; Totals: 20-12-55.
Gilbert (57): Joe Brugmann 11-3-27; Ryley Weiss 3-1-9; Hunter Smith 6-0-15; Cnnor Bailey 1-0-2; Juan Sarmiento 2-0-4; Totals: 23-4-57.
3-point goals: LM — DiChiara; Schibi 2. G — Brugmann 2; Weiss 2; Smith 3.
Records: Lewis Mills 2-1; Gilbert 1-2.