Jared Gibson is The Times’ boys’ basketball coach of the year

There’s not much room for running in the Verdugo Hills High gym.

Shorter than a regulation high school court by 10 feet, half court is essentially the top of the key. The quarters are so tight that players often go flying into walls during practices.

Going on runs? That was no problem for the long-suffering Dons during a breakthrough season in which they won their first section title in school history and first league title since 1959.

Verdugo Hills used a 19-0 run in the fourth quarter to rally for a 60-52 victory over Woodland Hills El Camino Real in the Los Angeles City Section Division III championship. After beating Fresno Hoover in the first round of the Southern California regional playoffs, the Dons went on a 9-0 run in the third quarter to take a lead over heavily favored Huntington Beach Ocean View.

“You’re in those moments and you feel like you’re walking on clouds seeing where we’ve come from,” said Verdugo Hills Coach Jared Gibson, whose team eventually fell to the Seahawks.

Gibson, 34, steered the Dons (25-8) into the stratosphere in only his third season, overcoming low-grade facilities and a lack of tradition to become the Los Angeles Times’ coach of the year.

Relying on stifling defense and an up-tempo attack, Gibson continually coaxed winning performances from forward Chris Dees and guards Nick Brown and Aragad Abramian. The Dons’ triumph over Hoover was their first in a state playoff game.

“I don’t want my team playing like robots,” Gibson said. “I have a system, we run plays, but I want them, especially the playmakers, to have the ability to make plays. You don’t worry about what’s next. You do it.”