There are games when the first three minutes is more vital than the last three.
That was the case Friday night when Mesa took advantage of a quick start, igniting the home crowd especially the student section, to grab the initial lead and never relinquished it in a 50-41 win over Mountain View in East Valley Region boys basketbal action.
“They got out to that big lead, and we had to keep trying to get back into it,” Mountain View coach Gary Ernst said. “I told our guys if we played with them from the start then maybe we have the three-point lead at the end instead of them.
“We played catch up the whole game and just never got it even.”
Mesa played with a ton of energy early and connected from the outside – Zach Hobbs had two 3-pointers – on the way to a 16-4 lead that ended on a Hobbs’ layup on a pass from Eddie McClendon after a Toro turnover on their own end.
“We came out intense to start and the crowd was into it; we had to match it,” said Mesa senior point guard Mark Hatch, who finished with a game-high 18. “The offense was in a good flow, and we hit some good shots to get it going.”
The Jackrabbits (15-4, 5-0) played tough perimeter defense the whole game, but really disrupted the Mountain View (10-7, 3-1) offense early, forcing several bad shots and travels.
The Toros had a lot of uncharacteristic unforced errors with turnovers or bad ball-handling.
“We couldn’t get anything going,” Ernst said. “Mesa played tough defense, but we didn’t do ourselves any favors, either.”
Every time the Toros, who were led by Kaleb Doka’s 11 points, got within four or three points, Mesa would either make a stop and/or score on the other end.
The Jackrabbits never let the situation get bigger than it was as they just kept doing just enough to keep the lead.
“We’re a veteran group,” Mesa coach Shane Burcar said. “There was a buzz at 4 o’clock. It was electric. The good thing about this rivalry is it is healthy. There’s no elbows being thrown. We’re just playing hard.”
The Toros got within 34-31 with an 8-2 run to close the third and 44-41 on Cooper Richeson’s 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes remaining, but it was never enough.
Mesa’s Xavier Fuller, who finished with 16 points, had a steal sandwiched by four made free throws to help close out the game.
“This game is always special,” Hatch said. “It was a big win. It always is against Mountain View.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mesa 50, Mountain View 41
MtV 12 8 11 7–41
Mesa 18 8 11 13–50
MtV (10-7, 3-1) – Reavis 1-0-2, Richeson 2-2-8, Doka 3-4-11, Peterson 1-0-2, Jones 1-0-2, Pierce 1-4-6, Harris 3-2-8. TOTALS: 12-12 41.
Mesa (15-4, 5-0) – Adame 1-0-2, Hatch 7-4-18, Perry 1-0-2, Fuller 4-8-16, McClendon 1-0-2, Hobbs 3-0-8, Maritz 1-0-2. TOTALS: 18-12 50.