Blondy Baruti’s first game at Mesa in more than a year got off to a rousing start.
His teammates picked up the slack the rest of the way.
Foul trouble limited Baruti’s second-half production after nine points and five rebounds early, but Jahii Carson had 19 points and Adam Milkovich added 15 as the top-ranked Jackrabbits knocked off Phoenix Brophy 65-58 in the 5A-I Fiesta Region boys basketball opener for both teams Tuesday night.
Because of a recruiting violation, Baruti had not played since last January until Friday’s road game against Tucson.
“It’s been a long time, and I was ready for this,” Baruti said.
His introduction drew raucous cheers from the crowd.
“Mesa High loves me,” Baruti said. “And I love Mesa High.”
Baruti made his presence felt in the game’s first minute by throwing down a dunk, and his strong first quarter helped the Jackrabbits (13-3, 1-0) take a 15-10 lead.
It stretched to eight points at halftime, but Baruti sat out the latter portion of the quarter after getting called for his second foul. He picked up his third foul 26 seconds into the third quarter and sat out the rest of the period, but the Broncos could only cut the deficit to 43-36.
Reserves Kyler Fackrell and Justin McCray played well in Baruti’s absence.
“That’s something we’ve got to do,” Mesa coach Shane Burcar said. “That’s our depth.”
The lead dropped briefly to four points in the fourth quarter, but a 9-2 run by Mesa assured Brophy wouldn’t get any closer.
Baruti finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Danny Powell added 14 points for the Jackrabbits.