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Gilroy
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February 1, 2023

Force in the middle

Wortham brings shot-blocker to Gilroy High boys hoops team;
Mustangs fall to Seaside, 59-55.
GILROY – Mustang head hoops coach Michael Baumgartner has been dreaming of a big man for years. Unfortunately, Gilroy’s garlic farms have yet to grow one for him.

While neighboring rival Live Oak has three giants of six-foot-eight and above on its opening roster this year, the Mustangs have none over six-foot-three.

But they do have senior center Blair Wortham – who brings a lengthy six-foot-three frame into the Mustang starting line-up. In Tuesday’s 59-55 road loss to Seaside, Wortham registered 10 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks.

“He was a force,” said Baumgartner of Wortham. “He’s playing really hard. The team has accepted him and he’s a team player. He plays within the system. He’s playing better team defense. He does everything we ask of him. He will be a force in the middle. It’s the first time in four years that we’ll have a force in the middle.”

Playing in his first varsity season at Gilroy High, Wortham has filled the paint and provided a shot-blocking specialist that the Mustangs have lacked for many years.

“It’s all timing. He’s got the natural ability. His blocks don’t go into the bleachers or out of bounds. He just taps them and lets us get the rebound,” Baumgartner said. “He had three blocks in a row on one series. They kept getting the offensive rebound and he kept blocking them until we got it.”

Gilroy (1-1) – which defeated Carmel last week in its non-league opener – maintained a lead on Seaside before allowing five points in the final 10 seconds of the first half. Trailing 23-20, the Mustangs in-your-face defense limited Seaside to only six points in the third quarter.

“Our defense really, really stuck it to them,” Baumgartner said. “But we struggled to score out of our set offense. They were pressing so they took us out of our fastbreak game. We struggled in the half-court set.”

With three minutes remaining, the Mustangs found themselves in a 15-point hole – prompting both squads to empty their benches. The Gilroy reserves one that battle – turning a double-digit deficit into a respectable four-point loss.

“Our subs did really well,” Baumgartner said. “They played with a lot of intensity. Our intensity and discipline looked great.”

Up next, Gilroy heads to the Dec. 5-7 San Louis Obispo Tournament – where they will have a tough task with a first-round match-up against CIF South runner-up Santa Margarita. The Mustangs defeated the host SLO squad the last two years. Gilroy will return home for a Dec. 9 non-league contest against Gunderson at 7 p.m.

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