GARDINER — Defense dominated on the very day the Gardiner girls basketball program celebrated scoring.

Senior Lizzy Gruber became the second Tiger to hit the 1,000-point plateau for her career, finishing with a game-high 21 points Saturday as Gardiner stopped Mt. Ararat 53-35 in a matchup of the top two teams in their respective regions. The Tigers (9-0) remained unbeaten atop the Class A North standings, while the A South-leading Eagles dropped to 8-2 after being held to just 17 points through the first three quarters.

“I’m not sure it’s really hit me yet,” said the 6-4 Gruber, whose 14 rebounds added to her career total. In a win over Nokomis earlier this week, Gruber became the first Tiger in history with 1,000 rebounds.

“People that came before me — like Abby Bailey’s dad, Greg, he was a 1,000-point scorer. To me, I look up to people like that so much. Now that I can be someone for someone younger than me, to be the next person they can look up to, that makes me really happy.”

Gruber entered the afternoon needing four points to hit the milestone mark, and she took care of business early. She took a feed from Taylor Takatsu off a high pick-and-roll for a layup 82 seconds into the contest.

The game was briefly paused as Gruber was celebrated by her teammates, her family, the Gardiner coaching staff and school officials.


Amy Stilphen (’99) is the only other Gardiner girl to eclipse 1,000 points.

“She’s doing all these things, but the best part is that her teammates love her,” said Gardiner coach Mike Gray. “I don’t know anyone that doesn’t love her. She makes the whole team better both on and off the court. She’d still be really good if she was only 5-10. The fact that she’s 6-4, it just exaggerates those things that she does well.”

Parents Andrea Gruber, left, and Dave Gruber, right, pose with Gardiner senior center Lizzy Gruber, bottom right, after she scored her 1,000th point during a basketball game on Saturday in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Gruber finished with 11 of Gardiner’s 13 first-quarter points, which were more than enough to send the Tigers on their way to a 28-13 halftime lead.

Mt. Ararat shot 3 of 20 from the floor (15.0 percent) in the first half. It only got worse in the third quarter, with a single Avery Beal bucket accounting for the entirety of the Eagles’ third-quarter scoring.

Mt. Ararat shot 1 of 12 (8.3 percent) with five turnovers in the eight minutes directly following the intermission.

“I think the 6-4 girl in the paint had something to do with it,” Mt. Ararat coach Julie Petrie said of Gruber. “That inside presence is a little intimidating, and I thought we were passive on offense. We just didn’t get much flow going, and that really hurt us.”


“We’ve had a couple of games where we’ve talked about trying to get better defensively,” Gardiner senior guard Megan Gallagher said. “Last night the biggest thing we talked about was playing defense today, and we executed it. It was beautiful.”

The Eagles defended well enough themselves, employing a physical brand of basketball in the paint at the opposite end of the floor. Rarely blessed with uncontested looks at the basket, Gruber managed only four field goals — all of them in the opening period — but took advantage with a 13 of 19 effort from the free throw line.

Gardiner senior center Lizzy Gruber, bottom right, blocks a shot by Mt. Ararat freshman forward Kayleigh Wagg during a game Saturday in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Gallagher’s 3-pointer with 4:04 to play built the Tiger lead to 49-25 and put to bed any Eagle hopes of a comeback. Gallagher finished with 13, including three field goals from beyond the arc.

“Everyone worries about Lizzy,” Gallagher said. “The big thing we talk about in practice is that once we pass it in to her, we need to relocate. That will not only re-open it up for her to pass the ball back out, but it will also open it up for us to get shots off.”

The win served as a perfect midterm exam for Gardiner, which can expect to face an increase in physical defenses from the opposition as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“They’re similar to Lawrence in that they have several big, strong kids who can defend,” Gray said. “They can play that way the whole game. That’s a good test for us. When we play Lawrence again and they bring kids in to try and slow (Gruber) down, it’s great for her.  We all did a good job of having composure and knowing they were going to play physical and knowing we were going to have to fight through contact the whole game.”

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