It was an opportunity that doesn’t happen often so Shane Burcar gladly welcomed in Crespi for a late afternoon game on Tuesday.
The result – a 66-56 loss on the Jackrabbits home court – wasn’t a terrific outcome, but Burcar had the big picture in mind when he agreed to play the team from Encino, Calif.
“Coach (Russell) White runs a class program,” Burcar said. “John Calipari at Kentucky scheduled Kansas first and got some people in Rupp Arena for his young team. Here in Arizona we get a chance to play an out of state school in our gym without a tournament.
“The big picture is to advance to Arizona state tournament and this helps. I’d play these kinds of games all the time if I could with respect to Arizona. The kids are finishing exams, it’s holiday time and this was a great opportunity.”
The Jackrabbits (9-3) fell short of pulling off a win after letting an eight-point lead in the second quarter dissipate as Crespi headed into halftime with a 28-26 lead.
“We lost the game at the end of the half,” he said. “I need to do a better job. We had two guys in foul trouble. They hit a 3 and we are losing at the half. We had time to come back but to win these games you have to make plays and we didn’t do enough.”
Crespi (10-1) was led by Arizona recruit and senior guard Brandon Williams, while junior 6-foot-6 Kyle Owens was trouble inside and senior guard Russell Tong did damage from the outside.
The Jackrabbits pulled within 43-41 in the third quarter on back-to-back 3-pointers by Zach Hobbs, but trailed 50-43 entering the fourth when Hobbs missed an open three and Crespi’s Russell Tong connected on the other end in the final seconds.
The fourth quarter was Mesa’s Xavier Fuller trying to get the Jackrabbits back into the game, but Crespi kept answering for the win.
“We definitely need to get better on defense,” Mesa guard Mark Hatch said. “This was a good chance for us to get better against a good team. We have some things to work on in practice over break.”
The slashing Fuller finished with 23, while Hobbs had 16 on four 3-pointers and Hatch finished with 11 for the Jackrabbits, who host Skyline in East Valley Region action on Friday and then play in the McClintock tournament starting Dec. 26.
“McClintock is always a good tournament,” Burcar said. “We will get tested there and then be ready for the of the year.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to email@example.com.