On opening night of region play Tuesday, ranked teams took it on the chin a bit.
The Fiesta Region, as advertised in boys and girls, showed its competitive balance when top-ranked Gilbert Highland’s boys fell to Chandler Hamilton, fourth-ranked Gilbert’s boys lost to Chandler High and second-ranked Gilbert’s girls dropped a decision to Chandler. Even top-ranked and defending 5A-I state champ Highland’s girls were pushed to the limit by Hamilton.
“Hamilton played with a lot more passion than we did,” Highland boys coach Mark Carlino said of Hamilton’s 62-61 win Tuesday night at Hamilton. “Hamilton played well and we didn’t have our best performance. I’ve told our guys we’re not a good enough team to flip the switch whenever we want.”
Carlino added the loss might be best for his team.
“I’m glad we didn’t escape with a win,” Carlino said. “Sometimes losing is a better lesson. It gives you proper motivation to play well every night out.”
Hamilton coach Kevin Hartwig was less impressed with his team’s performance — and at times effort — in the Arizona Basketball Challenge at Mountain View in late December. The lackluster play apparently died with the onset of a new calendar year.
“We’ve changed a few things, gotten people that were out of position in other
positions,” Hartwig said. “We knew a No. 1 team was coming in so we were motivated. We got good shots and made them defend. And we made a shot at the end.”
That shot at the end was another game-winning 3-pointer by junior guard Micah Fetters, who canned this one with 1.2 seconds left to produce the win. Fetters did that against Sagemont, Fla., in the Huskies’ final game of the ABC.
Hamilton sophomore guard Jack Cone came up big, too, scoring a season-high 15 points to help Hamilton produce the upset.
Highland girls coach Miner Webster said his team started slowly, picked up defensively as the game went on and survived.
“They got up on us, we got the lead back and fortunately they missed the last shot or we could have walked off losing by a point,” Webster said. “There is not a dominant team in this region. You have to come out and play well. I think you’ll see by the end of region play a lot of games like ours and Chandler-Gilbert’s (Tuesday night). One-point games that come down to one possession to decide it. I told our girls last night one point was worth 90 (power) points. They get a basket at the end, they get 90 and we get none. You take every win you can.”
MESQUITE WINNING ONES THAT COUNT
Gilbert Mesquite’s boys basketball team has gone 2-for-2 in a three-game stretch against current or formerly-ranked teams in the Tribune’s top 5. Tuesday night the Wildcats bolted to a 15-0 lead over Chandler Basha but found themselves down 11 with about three minutes to go. They ended up winning, 58-55, thanks to a jumper by Braden Tilley in the final seconds and some tack-on free throws with four seconds left. A frantic rally to say the least.
“We played with focus on defense the last three minutes,” Mesquite coach Tom Saltzstein said. “That was the difference. We’ve played better defense as the season’s gone on.”
Mesquite is 11-5 on the season. Mesquite is 8-1 in games that count for power.