It didn’t take long to record what will most assuredly be the biggest upset in the 6A boys’ state basketball tournament — just one day, in fact.
On the first day of the tourney, No. 15 seed Mountain View High School shocked No. 2 Mesa High School, 56-48. And this was not a squeeze-it-out win coming on a last-second shot at the buzzer.
Mountain View actually took an early lead and built it to a 12-point margin in the first half before the Jackrabbits tied it up at 30-30. But the Toros’ cross-town rival pushed the lead back to five points late in the third quarter and then kept Mesa at arm’s length the rest of the way, taking advantage of some clutch free throws in the final minute to maintain the lead.
To put some context to the Mountain View upset, consider that the other three top-four seeds won their games by a combined 24-point margin. The Toros WON by eight.
And this was supposed to be one of the best teams Mesa has put on the floor in recent memory, even given consideration as one of the best in program history. The Jackrabbits entered the state tournament as a favorite to win the 2021 title.
The last state championship for Mesa came five years ago when Shane Burcor, now the NAU head coach, was directing the Toros’ program. Mesa, now playing for head coach Scott Stansberry, hasn’t made it back to the title game since then.
This shocker was just Mesa’s second loss in its 18 games this season.
But give the Mountain View defense a lot of credit. The Jackrabbits have been averaging 66 points a game over the last five outings. The 48 points allowed by the Toros was the second-lowest of the season for Mesa, right behind the 29 points scored against Gilbert High on Jan. 27 in their only other loss, a 29-49 surprise.
The next game on the road to a state title comes tonight against No. 7 seed Hamilton High, a 12-6 team that has a .500 record against conference foes. Hamilton is coming off a 68-48 victory against No. 10 Desert Ridge HS in its opening game.
The Huskies have won nine of their 12 games played at home. And tomorrow’s 7 pm game is at Hamilton.
Not a good omen for an underrated Toros team that is trying to claw its way to the top.