Mesa High's achilles heel this season proved crippling.
The Jackrabbits boys basketball team never fully found its way offensively this season, and by the time baskets became more bountiful, time was too scarce.
Despite turnovers and shooting struggles most of the night, No. 12 Mesa pulled a couple comebacks but couldn't pull the game out in a 69-62 loss to No. 23 Glendale Deer Valley on Thursday night in the first round of the Division I state tournament.
Mesa's season ended in frustration at 17-11 overall.
Foul trouble, turnovers and a lack of offense doomed Mesa in the first half, except the Jackrabbits only trailed by two points at halftime. The end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter told the tale.
Christian Harris scored six points in the third quarter - a warmup to his big fourth quarter for the Jackrabbits - but when Mesa pulled even twice in the third quarter, Deer Valley pulled back in front. A 9-2 run by the Skyhawks closed the third quarter, and Deer Valley scored seven points in 80 seconds to begin the fourth.
"They made their shots and their pressure bothered us," Mesa coach Shane Burcar said.
Harris got hot, hitting a couple 3-pointers along with a three-point play midway through the fourth. A steal and layup by Sumeet Khara (13 points) pulled Mesa within 57-51, but an offensive rebound off a missed free throw for Deer Valley led to another basket, the lead went back to nine points and Mesa was forced to foul.
Deer Valley grabbed a couple key offensive rebounds off free throws and missed shots in the fourth quarter and hit 9 of 14 free throws to help offset Harris' shooting flurry.
Whether a turnover, missed free throw or a 3-for-15 shooting output in the first quarter, Burcar found the scenes all-too familiar.
"We didn't execute and they made plays," he said. "Offense has been our problem all season, an inability to see the floor and make the play in time."
Harris and Isaac Allen both capped terrific high school careers with solid play after halftime. Harris finished with 24 points (20 after halftime) and shook off first-half shooting woes. Allen battled foul trouble at times and finished with eight points. They were the only two freshman starters at Mesa High
"They were great careers and top players every year," said Burcar, noting the pair was part of Mesa being among the top 50 teams nationally according to several publications a few years ago.
None of that was consolation as the team emerged from the locker room a final team, emotions everywhere.
Deer Valley 69, Mesa 62
DV 13 11 20 23 -- 69
Mesa 10 14 14 24 -- 62
DV: Rees Plummer 14, Tyler Watts 16, Jacob Stakemiller 9, Deron Kyle 19, Tannes Brien 3, Edward Hardt 8
Mesa: Christian Harris 24, Drew Hatch 2, Isaac Allen 8, Sumeet Khara 13, David Cummard 2, Felipe Velazco 11
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.