In his first time at a big arena for the 5A boys basketball playoffs, Mesa senior point guard Jahii Carson wasn't intimidated in the least.
Brophy’s offense sure enjoyed the bright lights, too.
Carson scored 58 points on 25-of-38 shooting but the Broncos made it look even easier than he did, cruising to a 96-82 win in the 5A Division I semifinals on Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena.
The Broncos never trailed, and it looked like a lay-up line for many sequences in the second half. Even when Brophy missed, it often got second chances, outscoring the Jackrabbits 25-5 in that area and outrebounding them by 26.
Mesa had beaten Brophy twice in the regular season.
“Every single person came out with the right mentality,” Brophy forward Sai Tummala said. “We were unselfish, we attacked, and at the end of the game we won.”
Carson was a one-man show for much of the game.
He had 12 points after the first quarter, 25 at halftime, and 44 after three quarters.
He fouled out with 1:35 remaining in the game after pushing off on a drive to the basket. He ended up five points shy of breaking Dennis Dairman’s 5A record for points in a game, set in 1960.
“I didn’t know at all (about being close to the record),” Carson said. “I was just trying to get my team a win.”
Many players struggle shooting the ball with the deeper backdrop at Jobing.com Arena, but it didn’t affect Carson.
“I was just focused, in my zone,” Carson said. “It really didn’t really make a difference to me where we were playing.”
Carson was given a technical foul for throwing the ball at a referee following his fifth foul. Mesa coach Shane Burcar was given a technical moments later and ejected. He stood there perplexed for a minute before leaving the court.
“It’s an absolute joke with two minutes to go to kick me out when I was just trying to talk to them,” Burcar said.
Brophy led 88-74 at that point and wasn’t threatened again.
There were 58 fouls called in the game, 35 of which were on Mesa.
Burcar said his team had past issues with the two referees assigned to the game, and didn’t want them officiating such an important contest.
“The official tells me the first time I talk to him to ‘Shut up, Shane,’” Burcar said. “Last year they kicked Jahii’s mother from a game. Now they’re (officiating) the final four? The AIA should be ashamed of themselves. They shouldn’t have put us in that situation.”
Brophy led by seven points after one quarter and by the same margin at the half.
Mesa was again within seven points after a bucket by Desmond Medder with 5:57 remaining in the third quarter, but the Broncos went on a 10-1 run to move ahead 53-37 with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
Carson hit a 3-pointer to end the third and buried a free throw to cut the lead to 11 points with 7:50 to play, but the Jackrabbits would never get the deficit below double digits the rest of the way.
Brophy had four players in double figures, led by Fred Gammage and James Harper with 21 apiece, and shot 54.7 percent for the game
“Basically, they were just doing whatever they wanted to,” Carson said.
Brophy tried doing triangle-and-two and box-and-one defenses to control Carson in the regular season meetings, to no avail. So this time, the game plan was to let him score and stop the other Mesa players.
Medder had 16 points, but nobody else had more than three.
“Two men can’t guard him, one man can’t guard him, five men can’t guard him, so we just tried to shut those other guys down,” Brophy coach Tony Fuller said.
Brophy has never won a state championship, but will get a chance on Friday night against either No. 1 Buena or No. 4 Mountain View.