Bailey Gilbert shot the lights out this season.
The Sycamore guard’s ability was there all year, when she shot a 41.1 percent from 3-point range, helping the Spartans to 20 victories and their first regional championship since 2003.
It even continued after Sycamore was knocked out by Burlington Central in a Class 3A Belvidere Sectional semifinal, as Gilbert showed off her skills in the IHSA’s Three-Point Showdown at Redbird Arena in Normal.
The junior hit seven 3s, finishing in a tie for second behind Pontiac’s Kelsey Walsberg, who hit 11.
Gilbert’s shooting ability is one reason she’s been named the 2014 Daily Chronicle Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“I thought it was a great experience. Everybody went down, there were a lot of people there, it was a cool atmosphere to be in,” Gilbert said. “It was definitely nervewracking because there was a lot of people there. Other than that it was fun.
“... Just getting down there and going to ISU was awesome in itself. Once I got past the prelims and I was in the finals I wanted to have fun. It was really cool.”
For Sycamore coach Brett Goff, seeing Gilbert make it that far was not a shock by any means.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if she won it next year,” Goff said.
Leading up to the event, Gilbert made an effort to shoot for around 45 minutes every day. She would either take her repetitions in the fieldhouse at Sycamore High School or in the gym, as Spartans boys basketball coach Andrew Stacy would let her shoot during his practices.
“I didn’t change anything. I just shot a lot,” Gilbert said. “Repetition just made everything. Muscle memory.”
Gilbert finished the season with an average of 17.2 points a game, which led the area. She added 3.1 rebounds a contest, and shot 41.9 percent from the field, despite the fact she saw more defensive pressure and box-and-ones as the season went on.
“You couldn’t tell. She just had the poker face on the floor at all times,” Goff said. “... She handled it well. I thought she did a really good job.”
Goff said that Gilbert added a midrange jumper this year which made her more of a threat and kept the defenses guessing.
Heading into next season, Gilbert plans to keep on adding to her game in preparation for her senior year.
“Just keep playing basketball. Keep working on my ballhandling, my midrange game,” she said. “Also working on some post moves to make me a better overall player.”