Donny Ott is a “gum guy.” The Cedar Park High School girls’ basketball coach always has a pack on him, he said, and last season his players often took to asking him for pieces.
So early this season, in an effort to assuage the gum gauging before it started, Ott gifted his star guard, Gisella Maul, a pack of Dentyne Ice. But that was back in November.
“I didn’t get her any for the state tournament,” Ott said. “Maybe that’s why she was playing so mad.”
Whatever the reason, Maul’s aggression reached a crescendo when it mattered most for the No. 9 Timberwolves. After Cedar Park and Memorial were tied at the end of regulation in Saturday’s 5A Texas state championship game, Maul scored 10 of her 27 points in the two overtime periods to lead the Timberwolves to a 45-40 victory and their second consecutive state title.
The junior also recorded 19 rebounds in a dominant performance that helped her earn JWS Player of the Week honors. Noblesville High School’s (Ind.) Ashlynn Shade claimed the distinction last week.
View this post on Instagram A post shared by FLX (@flxatx)
A post shared by FLX (@flxatx)
Maul, the 2022 Gatorade Texas State Player of the Year, averaged 25.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.9 steals per game this season. The 5-foot-10 sharpshooter shone brightest in the state championship, especially once Memorial switched one of its smaller guards onto her late in the second overtime.
With the contest knotted at 40, Maul received a pass in the post, collapsing the defense inward. She kicked the ball out, and when she got it back, she took the ball to the baseline and finished with her left hand, earning the and-1 call.
“When I made that (free-throw) shot, I knew this was our game, we’re taking it home,” Maul said.
Afterwards, Maul’s father, Mike, gifted her a pair of custom-made sneakers emblazoned with a “state champs” logo, just like he did after Cedar Park beat Frisco Liberty in the 5A final last year. Maul has about 30 pairs of sneakers, and the custom pairs made before championship games are a testament to her father’s confidence, she said.
“He feels like we are one, we are together as one,” Maul said of her father. “When I feel like we’re going to win, he feels like we’re going to win.”
That’s good news for Cedar Park and Ott, who has Maul for one more season. A four-star recruit, per ESPN, Maul has yet to make a college decision but has fielded interest from several Division I powers, including the University of Texas.
She proved on Saturday why college coaches are watching. Ott was asked afterwards if he was surprised by Maul’s performance.
“I was like, ‘No,'” Ott said. “I see her do it everyday.”
Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.