RENO — Challenging Ashley Gayle in the post is tempting fate — like teasing a tiger with a slab of beef.
Yet, the Reed Raiders repeatedly went into the paint against Gayle.
Quite often, the ball went right back where it came from or up in the stands or 10 feet down the court, defeated, deflated.
The 6-foot-4-inch Texas-bound center had 10 blocks along with 10 points and 13 rebounds in Bishop Gorman’s 58-41 win over Reed in the Class 4A girls state basketball semifinals Thursday at Lawlor Events Center. The Gaels (29-4) will play Reno (29-3) in the final at 6 tonight.
Gayle never will wag a finger or let out a guttural scream, but she knows what one of her blocks does to an opponent.
"It feels like fire out of your hand," Gayle said. "You just throw the ball back, and it’s like gone, no chance. I don’t say much to the other players, but it’s in my head, ‘Don’t come back in here.’ "
Added Gorman coach
Sheryl Krmpotich: "I’ve been rejected by Ashley Gayle in practice, and it’s not fun — at all. Her hand is bigger than my head. She will cup the ball, and she will throw it down, almost like a volleyball spike.
"And even if you beat her, she’s going to swat it from behind."
Still, the Raiders tried to go down low, after finding success with their post game early.
Reed (23-8-1) held a 9-5 advantage after one quarter, fronting Gayle and fellow 6-4 tower Dannielle Diamant (12 points, 12 rebounds). The Gaels had trouble just getting shots off as the Raiders stuck to their man-to-man defense.
"We set the tempo and said, ‘We’re gonna man up on you, we’re gonna get up in you and see what you have,’ " Reed coach Sara Schopper said. "Our goal was to hold them to one shot, and in the first quarter we did really well with that."
Then Aaryn Ellenberg took over.
Ellenberg had nine of her game-high 23 points in a three-minute stretch midway through the second quarter, starting with a fadeaway from 12 feet that brought Gorman to within one. By the end of her surge, the Gaels led 20-13.
"Aaryn is a gamer," Krmpotich said. "In big games, she just comes up. She just has a knack for the game; she plays it so fluently. She single-handedly brought us back in the game."
When Reed’s Kayla Williams was injured with 3:43 remaining in the third quarter, though, the Gaels really took over.
The Raiders had closed an eight-point deficit to 28-27 when Williams clutched her right leg and fell to the ground.
Gorman took advantage inside and went into the fourth quarter up 39-27.
"Kayla went down and we got into a little bit of panic mode," Schopper said. "Danielle (Peacon) and Erica (McKenzie) tried to make up for her, and they rushed it too much. We weren’t patient and looking for the shot like we were in the first half."