Friday night was one last chance for many 5A schools to make a good impression heading to region play next week.
Count Mesquite’s boys basketball team among those.
The Wildcats used a dominant third period to break away from visiting Red Mountain and posted a 71-50 victory over the Mountain Lions in a 5A Division I contest.
Mesquite’s inside game was sterling in the third period as 6-foot-8 senior Will Donahue and 6-9 senior Gavin Edwards ganged up on Red Mountain for 20 and 18 points, respectively, for the night and outscored the Mountain Lions 21-9 in the pivotal period. They were at their best in the third period when the Wildcats (9-5) ripped open a tight game (they led 33-31 at halftime). They combined for 16 of Mesquite’s third-quarter points and didn’t have to work nearly as hard for their points in that span as they did in the first half.
“Red Mountain is such a well-coached team,’’ Mesquite coach Tom Saltzstein said. ‘‘The third quarter was one of our best of the season. They confused us some the first half. We had to go at it harder in the second half, and I think we forced them into some bad shots.’’
Red Mountain (7-7) began the game sharp and hit its shots. Guard Eric Garst, who led the Mountain Lions with 14 points, hit his first three shots. Red Mountain led 12-5 just a few minutes after the opening tip.
In both the first and second quarters Red Mountain had five- or six-point leads in the final two minutes of the stanzas only to have bad shots or careless turnovers lead to Mesquite closing the gap. In the second period Red Mountain turned a Mesquite run around while Donahue and Edwards were on the bench for nearly three minutes. A 23-19 deficit became a 31-25 Red Mountain lead. But it didn’t stick.
‘‘That was a big difference, going to the half down two instead of up by four or six,’’ Red Mountain coach Greg Sessions said. “The first quarter and parts of the second we controlled the pace. The third period we lost the pace and they took it. They got pretty much anything (shots) they wanted. They played better defensively and our shooting was abysmal.’’
Red Mountain connected on 7-of-33 shots (21 percent) from the floor in the second half. Mesquite made 9-of-15 shots in the third period — everything in the paint.
Red Mountain visits Mountain View in its East Valley Region opener on Tuesday. Mesquite plays host to Chandler in the first Fiesta Region matchup of the season.