Two minutes after being on the brink of blowout, Mesa had defenders flying after Alex Barcello, hoping the sharp-shooting junior would miss.
Barcello’s 3-point try as the buzzer sounded bounced off the rim, and four-time defending state champion Tempe Corona del Sol’s 70-game boys basketball winning streak against Arizona teams ended Tuesday night in a 65-62 loss that had Mesa students rushing the court at Mesa.
“We almost blew it,” Mesa coach Shane Burcar’s first words were as he greeted reporters.
This was top-ranked Corona del Sol’s first game under new coach Neil MacDonald and a team that revolves around three marquee guards — Barcello, senior Tyrell Henderson and junior Saben Lee.
Sixth-ranked Mesa was playing its sixth game, after losing the only game of its Fear The Hop Thanksgiving tournament last week to champion Glendale Mountain Ridge by two points in the semifinals.
Mesa (5-1) put immediate pressure on Corona del Sol, jumping out to a 9-2 lead and never trailed.
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It took its biggest lead, 58-46, with 2:21 left, before Corona del Sol’s trapping, full-court pressure began to get to Mesa.
Lee converted a three-point play, Barcello had a steal and made a jumper, Lee followed in a missed shot and Barcello drained a 3 in a minute’s span to bring Corona del Sol to within 60-56. But during that time Henderson fouled out.
Mesa’s last nine points came from the free-throw line with sophomore Mark Hatch making four of them and senior Darius Goudeau making the last one with six seconds left that gave Mesa a 65-62 lead.
That was enough time for Corona del Sol to get the ball down to its All-Arizona guard, who lofted a contested 3 as time ran out.
Barcello had 15 of his 25 points in the final quarter, and seven in the last 2:08. But he missed a shot just inside the arc after cutting the score to 64-62, before Goudeau rebounded and was fouled with six seconds left.
“He put them back in the game,” Burcar said. “He made some unbelievable shots. I thought David Cummard did a great job on him. Alex is arguably the best player in the state or one of them.”
Corona del Sol was coming off a 33-1 season with its only loss coming against a California school, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (65-64) last January in the Hoophall West Classic at Scottsdale Chaparral.
Corona del Sol’s last loss to an Arizona team came on Jan. 29, 2013, a 62-54 setback at Mesa Dobson.
After last season’s state title, coach Sam Duane Jr., stepped down, and 6-foot-11 Marvin Bagley III left to explore another basketball opportunity after being named by azcentral sports as the state’s Player of the Year as a freshman. Both Sam and his father Sam Sr., were in attendance Tuesday.
This was the most vulnerable Corona del Sol appeared entering a season since it began its run of championships with little size and reliance on three guards.
Still, Corona del Sol came into this season ranked No.1 in Division I by azcentral sports, pinning its hopes on small ball with Barcello, Henderson and Lee, all future NCAA Division I players.
“We needed to be better defensively early and do a better job on the boards,” MacDonald said. “We did some good things late and got shots to tie or take the lead”
Corona del Sol never got out on its patented transition game that were the hallmark of its last four state championship teams.
Mesa bogged Corona del Sol into a halfcourt game for the most part. Corona del Sol had only 21 points by halftime with 12 of those coming on free throws.
“We wanted them to play against our man-to-man and shoot over us,” Burcar said. “They’re good. But we wanted to be in position to rebound.”
Mesa had more second-chance points than Corona del Sol.
Drew Hatch, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, had an outstanding game at both end of the court to keep Corona del Sol from ever taking the lead. His fourth 3-pointer with 2:41 left gave Mesa a 10-point lead. He had 28 points.
“Mesa on the road was a tough opener, but it’s a long season and our outlook hasn’t changed,” MacDonald said.
Mesa had a February-like student section, filled and standing the entire game.
“We gave them pizza,” Burcar said.
Burcar feels his team will have one of the toughest schedules. He wanted it that way after reaching the Division I quarterfinals last season.
“To beat them, shoot, we had a 10-point lead and hope for two misses,” Burcar said.
In other games Tuesday:
. Freshman point guard Reed Myers hit the game-tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation and the winning 3 at the end of the second overtime for second-ranked Scottsdale Christian in a 74-71 victory at top-ranked (Division III) Goodyear Estrella Foothills.
Myers finished with 19 points.
Rex Graebell led Estrella Foothills in its opener with 38 points.
. Freshman guard Josh Green made 9 of 11 3-pointers and scored on two dunks for 31 points, leading unbeaten Glendale Mountain Ridge (6-0) to a 76-54 rout at Gilbert Perry. Green, 6-4, moved in from Australia last summer.
Reach Obert at email@example.com or 602-460-1710. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.