Braden Tilley made just one shot Thursday for Gilbert Mesquite, a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
But it was the work he did on the other end of the court that proved to be most important.
Tilley stuck like glue to Chandler Basha sharpshooter Nick Markovich all night — including on a potential game-tying 3-pointer with under 10 seconds left — as host Mesquite held on for a 57-52 win in the first round of the 5A-I boys basketball state tournament.
Markovich, the team’s leading scorer on the season at 18.5 per game, was held to just 10, and was 0-for-9 on the night with Tilley guarding him. Markovich hit three of his four shots against other defenders.
“(Tilley) is just phenomenally tough,” Mesquite coach Tom Saltzstein said. “We stick him on the other team’s best player night in and night out, and he just does it with a smile. He’s 5-foot-9-and-a-half, and that’s being very generous. He’s just a tough kid and he loves the challenge.”
The game went back and forth, with neither team opening up a lead larger than six in the contest.
It was tied at 41-41 entering the fourth quarter, and Basha went ahead by four points on a pair of free throws by Markovich with 6:29 left. Mesquite, though, ended the game on a 14-5 run to get the win.
The lead was just one after Judd Welfringer hit a 3-pointer for Basha with 27 seconds left.
Mesquite’s Kevin Jones hit a pair of free throws to push the lead to 55-52 with 19 seconds left.
Markovich had a chance to tie the game, but Tilley was in his face and forced a tough shot, which didn’t catch iron.
Mesquite’s Josh Amaya rebounded the ball, was fouled, and hit a pair of free throws to seal it.
Tyler Miller had a superb night for Basha, finishing with 21 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of steals. But he went 0-for-3 on free throws, and the Bears were just 2-for-12 as a team.
Mesquite was 14 of 16 from the line.
Mesquite will host No. 13 Gilbert in the 5A-I quarterfinals on Saturday.