The #3 ranked Mesa Jackrabbits(10-3) played host to the top ranked
Highland Hawks last evening in front of a standing room only crowd and gave
the Hawks their first loss of the season (13-1). Coming into the game
undefeated and ranked #1 in the state by PrepAZ, the Hawks entered Tuesdays
game virtually untested and according to the Mesa fans, "Over-rated!!"
The chant was, at times, deafening as the two neighboring schools went to
battle on the hardwoods. The only problem was that one team came to
play basketball and one team showed up to play, what looked like,
I try never to judge a team just by their appearance in the warm-ups, but it only took me a matter of seconds to know that the Highland Hawks would have a difficult time matching up with the Jackrabbits. The Rabbits had a definite height advantage, are quicker and more athletic, and most important of all, have a deeper, more talented bench. The Hawks only suited up nine players and only finished with seven as two fouled out. To compensate, the Hawks resorted to a more physical style of play that was borderline rugby-like. This was the only reason they lost by just ten, 70-60. The game was not as close as the score dictated.
Early on, the game was a bit sloppy with both teams committing a number of turnovers as each team tried to take control of the tempo. Mesa looked to be a bit frustrated early on with the Hawks physical style of play but midway through the first quarter, made some adjustments and never looked back. The Jackrabbits took the lead early in the first and never gave it back.
The first half belonged to Mesa's Lee Cummard pouring in 14 of his 21 points and blocking 3 shots. His presence inside made it difficult for all, including 6'10" Ryan McCurdey who was held to only 4 points for the contest. For a big man, he was completely shut down and had very limited minutes in the second half. At the half the score was 31-20 in favor of Mesa.
The second gave us much of the same with Cummard and Crowell combining for 5 blocked shots with a couple more questionably called as goal tending. To try and slow down the offense of Cummard, the Hawks draped guard Corey Brinton all over him and it did seem to frustrate the future BYU player. This opened up the floor for junior forward Matt Komenda, and he took definite advantage. Komenda had 17 of his 21 in the second half and keptthe game out of reach. He was a force inside that no player on the Hawks roster could control.
To get back into the game and slow the bleeding, the Hawks began fouling everyone who touched the ball. In the fourth period alone, Mesa took 28 shots from the charity stripe, making 20, and finished the game 33 for 43 from the line.
The Hawks Riley McCormick finished with 20 and Ty Del Re finished with 13 before fouling out midway through the fourth.
The fans may have hit this one right on the nose with their bellowing chant for it was apparent that the Hawks were no match for the Rabbits. I don't know who is putting out this top ten list, but it's time for the Iceman to get involved. Highland did not play like a No. 1 ranked team and in my opinion may not even be top ten material. I did not see anything or anyone on this team that stood out or stepped up, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt and watch them play again tonight as they travel to Camelback.
Check back tomorrow and I'll let you know if they are contenders of pretenders.