Xavier Prep basketball coach Stephen Moss continues to talk about his young team in terms of how the Gators are learning to negotiate he treacherous Division I waters.
Friday night’s (Jan. 22) contest against visiting Gilbert Mesquite was the toughest lesson yet.
Xavier stormed back from a 16-point deficit to lead by five with a little more than a minute to play in the fourth.
The lead evaporated, Mesquite forced overtime, kept the pressure on and used a pair of three-pointers in the extra session to help produce a 70-67 win.
Xavier fell to 12-8 overall and 1-2 in Section III play, and was listed as the No. 10 team in power points by the Arizona Interscholastic Association on Saturday morning (Jan. 23).
Mesquite, meanwhile, has a firm grip on the No. 2 spot at 16-5, behind No. 1 Chandler Hamilton.
The spotlight will shine brighter on the Gators on Tuesday (Jan. 26) when they host Mesa Red Mountain (12-9) at 7 p.m. The game will be televised live or available through on demand on the AIA’s Web site, azpreps365.com.
Moss thought his team was going to post a signature win over Mesquite before the Gators faded.
“It’s frustrating,’’ he said.
“If we would have played the way we did (late) from the first (opening) jump, we would have had a lot better chance to win. But I’m proud of the way we were able to come back.
“We have another lesson now. It hopefully will help us in the state tournament. It’s better that it happened now rather than then. This was an example of they’re going to need to believe what you tell them. That one or two plays can make a difference, so you have to be ready at all times.’’
Xavier led 56-51 with a little more than a minute left, but Mesquite used a steal and layup, a free throw and a layup with two seconds left on a give-and-go feed to tie it. Mesquite had the chance to win it with a free throw to complete a three-point play, but it was off target.
Mesquite started the overtime with a free throw followed by back-to-back three-pointers. Xavier remained close, but the clock was not an ally.
Freshman point guard Leilani McIntosh topped Xavier scorers with 20 points, while a pair of inside players, senior Vanessa Murphy and sophomore Alana Kelley, each scored 18.