Mesquite beat Phoenix St. Mary’s 92-89 on Thursday in the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge, finishing the tournament 4-0 and stretching the team's overall winning streak to 13 straight games.
The four-day VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge was dotted with Division I signees and their respective boys basketball teams.
While Gilbert Mesquite might not have that one marquee player, it proved that it could play with anyone that does.
The Wildcats beat Phoenix St. Mary’s 92-89 on Thursday, finishing the tournament 4-0 and stretching their overall winning streak to 13 straight games. Mesquite’s only blemish is a season-opening loss to Chandler Hamilton.
It knocked off Phoenix Horizon, North Lawndale (Ill.) Prep, and Chandler in the three previous days.
If Mesquite wasn’t looked at as a 5A-I contender before this tournament, it is now.
“For the whole year, they’ve had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder because of the way we performed at the end of the year last year (making the 5A-I quarterfinals),” Mesquite coach Tom Saltzstein said. “They’ve got a little bit of drive, and they’ve got a little bit of desire. That group of seniors we have, they know this is it. And they want to do something that Mesquite High School has never done, and that’s get farther (in the 5A-I tournament) and hopefully cut down the nets. That’s their ultimate goal.”
The game against St. Mary’s went back and forth late.
The lead changed hands five times in the last two minutes and 20 seconds, and a layup by Isaiah Strong with 18 seconds left gave Mesquite a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“They were giving it to me all game, so I just took baseline,” Strong said.
St. Mary’s guard Anthony Hendrix missed a floater in the lane with 5 seconds left, and Christian Bower sunk two free throws for the winning margin.
St. Mary’s didn’t get off a potential tying shot.
Strong scored 28 points in the contest, seven of which came after he picked up his fourth foul with 9:32 remaining in the contest.
Saltzstein left him in the game after a pleading Strong promised he wouldn’t foul out, and he didn’t.
“I was real happy (he left me in),” Strong said. “I knew I could help us win.”