Christopher's Noah Alvarez goes for a fast-break layup against Gilroy Tuesday night.
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For the first time since 2011, the Gilroy boys basketball team got the better of Christopher, 52-41 Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ll tell you what, for our seniors, this was a big game for them,” said Gilroy coach Abrem Estorga.
Elijah Floyd had 14 points and Kevin Azcueta added 11 as the Mustangs continue to roll, winning their third in the last four games and second of a three-games-in-three-nights stretch.
“We came in with focus,” Floyd said. “This was a big game for us. … Last night we played pretty bad and our defense was pretty bad. Tonight we came out and played aggressively like we knew we could.”
Christopher got 14 points out of big man Chris Burnett as the Cougars were without its dynamic playmaker Xander Bowers, who was forced to sit out the game.
The Mustangs got rolling quickly and never looked back, despite Christopher finding a rhythm in the second quarter.
Gilroy led 13-4 after the first quarter thanks to Floyd scoring nine points to lead things off. In fact, 10 of the 13 came from shots in the paint. The exception was Floyd who hit a 3-pointer with 1 second left in the quarter.
Then in the second, Christopher got its inside game working.
Burnett put down eight points as the Cougars rattled off 18 for the frame and cut the deficit down to three by the break.
The Mustangs stayed afloat thanks to 3-pointers from Azcueta and Connor Doyle to keep ahead 25-22 at the half.
Meanwhile, Alec Cordova and Thomas Elias both had five points in the quarter, both hitting 3s.
But Christopher couldn’t sustain the momentum into the third quarter.
Gilroy went off for 18 with Eric Heiser and Azcueta both putting up six points in the frame and the defense took care of the rest.
“When we play good defense and we rebound well, we give ourselves a chance to win,” Estorga said.
Every time the Cougars attempted to drive inside, there were three bodies crashing down to deny the shot.
The result was Burnett being held to two points as Christopher put up eight for the quarter.
“We changed our defense. It looked like a zone, but we ended up sending our guards and they play tough. Johnny is a tough kid and he’ll play down there. He’s like a post trapped in a guard’s body. And Kevin did a great job too.”
Estorga said he knew Christopher wanted to attack the low post and his boys made the Cougars fight for every inch under the basket. He then complemented his team on the ability to rebound and deny Christopher second chance points to help build the lead.
“Our team rebounding and team defense were fun to watch,” Estorga said.
Meanwhile, Gilroy went on a 13-2 run that turned into a 17-4 run that extended into the fourth quarter.
Leading by 17 midway into the fourth at 50-33, Gilroy started pulling its starters as did Christopher.
The Mustangs were held to nine points in the frame thanks to seven turnovers, but Christopher managed just 11.
For the game, Michael Kropf led both teams with 10 rebounds, coming a free throw shy of a double-double.
Heiser and Doyle both finished with six.
For the Cougars, Elias had eight points with Cordova adding seven.
Ultimately, Estorga said the game transcended Gilroy playing Christopher, it was a showcase of the talent the city possesses on the court for both schools.
“Essentially you see both of our teams have pretty good basketball players,” Estorga said. “It is a proud moment for Gilroy knowing that we have some of the best talent in our section in our back yard. Yes we have two schools, but we are always Gilroy and that will never change.”
Gilroy next plays at Pajaro Valley Wednesday at 7 p.m. and will stay on the road to play North Salinas 7 p.m.  Feb. 10.
Christopher, meanwhile, will regroup to host San Benito 7 p.m. Friday.

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Cheeto Barrera is the sports editor for the Morgan Hill Times and Gilroy Dispatch.

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