In the first 29 minutes of game action between Mountain Pointe and Mesa on Saturday, there were scoring outbursts, emotional outbursts and everything in between.
And through all that, the game was still deadlocked at 58.
It was the second-seeded Jackrabbits, though, that dominated the final three minutes of the game to capture a 72-66 victory over the No. 7 Pride to move on to the 5A-I boys basketball semifinals against Brophy on Thursday at Jobing.com Arena.
The atmosphere was electric from start to finish, as Mesa’s star guard, Jahii Carson, played against his former team for the first time. The state’s top-rated senior transferred from Mountain Pointe following his sophomore year.
Carson finished the game with 37 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals.
“Obviously it was going to be crazy,” Carson said. “Ex-teammates of mine jawing at me, so you know I had to jaw back. I wanted to come out and show them that Mesa was a good pick for me.”
Ben Cuevas broke the 58-58 tie with a bucket, and Carson followed that up with a score of his own to give Mesa a four-point lead with 2:09 remaining.
Mountain Pointe’s Tylor Wimbish cut the lead down to two points with 1:54 remaining, but the Jackrabbits went on a subsequent 6-0 run to lead 68-60 with 35 seconds left, and the Pride would get no closer than five the rest of the way.
Mountain Pointe’s student section directed taunts such as ‘We don’t miss you’ toward Carson, and it seemed like the Mountain Pointe players were also intent on proving they were better off without him.
The Jackrabbits led by as many as 11 points in the first quarter, but Mountain Pointe used a 13-1 run to take the lead in the second quarter and trailed by only three at the half. The Pride held a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, and stretched that to five points on a bucket by Jerome Garrison with seven minutes remaining. A half-minute later, though. Garrison picked up his fourth foul and was forced to the bench.
Mesa would fight back to a tie game by the time Garrison re-entered with about four minutes to play. Mountain Pointe coach Brian Fleming said there was too much time left in the game to keep Garrison on the floor with four fouls.
“I would have killed myself if I kept him out there and he fouls (out) right away and then we lose him for the rest of the game,” Fleming said. “I tried to keep him as long as I could.”
Mesa played without senior Charles Croxen, who was suspended for the game after getting ejected from the team’s opening-round playoff win over Tucson.
Trent Molesworth picked up much of the slack, registering 12 points to help Carson with the scoring load.
“We talked about Charles once, and that was Thursday morning, but we said that was nothing more than an excuse," Mesa coach Shane Burcar said.