If the preseason rankings play out, the 5A-I final four ought to be good.
Two of the top three teams for the 2010-11 preseason met on Saturday night and went back and forth, needing an extra four minutes to decide the issue.
Preseason No. 1 Mesa rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat third-ranked Corona del Sol 73-69 on Saturday night in the championship game of the Jackrabbits’ “Fear the Hop” tournament.
For Mesa star and Arizona State-committ Jahii Carson, it almost sounded like that was part of the plan.
“Overtime was where we wanted to go because we knew in overtime we would have more energy, we were in better shape to take it,” said Carson, who had 39 points, including seven of the Jackrabbits’ 11 points in the extra period.
“We knew it was going to come down to the wire,” Mesa coach Shane Burcar said. “And here’s what makes Jahii so dangerous to guard – he won’t always shoot it but he will pass the ball too. That’s what makes him so tough.”
In the overtime, Mesa led 66-64 and had the ball in the final minute. Carson got the ball and looked to make a play but Mesa swung the ball to reserve guard Anthony Garcia, who made a 10-foot bank shot over Corona’s Casey Benson to give Mesa some cushion. Corona never got closer than two in the final seconds.
“It’s supposed to go to Jahii, but I knew I had to take a shot,” Garcia said. “For some reason, I got a feeling, I’m going to take the shot and see what happens. Luckily it went in.”
“What is he doing taking that shot?" Burcar said. "And it went in.”
For Corona, Calaen Robinson and Avery Moss kept the pressure on all night. The aggressive Aztecs actually got off to a great start, forcing Carson to turn the ball over in the opening minute and taking an 8-2 lead early. Robinson had 24 points and Moss added 11. Casey Benson added 18, almost all of it from the perimeter.
At the end of regulation, Robinson made a pretty double-clutch layup and drew a foul to complete an old-fashioned three-point play to break a 59-59 tie. Carson hit the second a back-to-back 3-pointers to tie it up again with 1:26 remaining.
Mesa got the ball back after a miss with 43 seconds left but Carson tried to get around a double team by Robinson and Bryan Siefker, forced the ball and traveled with six seconds to go.
Robinson missed a driving shot in the waning seconds and Mesa’s Charles Croxen rebounded as the buzzer sounded.
Robinson quickly put Corona ahead in overtime but Carson took over, hitting four straight free throws to give the Jackrabbits the lead for good. Another Robinson three-point play got Corona within 70-68 with 22.6 seconds left but Mesa broke the Aztec press and found Trent Molesworth alone for an uncontested layup to help seal the win.
“We want this early in the year," Aztecs coach Sam Duane Jr. said. "It was great test for us early in the year, it’s going to make us better in the long run.”
In the third place game, Bryan Rhymes scored 16 of his team-high 21 points in the first quarter as fourth-ranked St. Mary’s jumped out to a 32-13 lead and never looked back for an 83-52 victory over Desert Ridge. Chris Mason added 20 points for St. Mary’s while Derreck Brooks led the Jaguars with 24.