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Les Willsey

Staff Writer,

Rhymes leads the way with 28 points as Desert Mtn. nips Mesa

Jan 8, 2013

Desert Mountain point guard Rolando Rhymes was ready to dish Tuesday night in the Wolves' showdown with Mesa High, but it didn't take long for him to realize finding an open teammate on the perimeter was going to be difficult.

So he took the scoring option and enjoyed a prolific night in an otherwise tough, physical battle. Rhymes netted a game-high and season-high-tying 28 points as Desert Mountain outlasted Mesa, 49-47 in a Division I boys baskeball game at Jackrabbit Gym.

Rhymes capped his scoring by sinking both ends of a one-and-one with 34.7 seconds left to supply  Desert Mountain (13-2, 7-1 power-ranking games) with the deciding points. Those free throws put Desert Mountain up, 49-45. Two free throws by Mesa's Felipe Velasco with 22.7 seconds left made it 49-47. Mesa (14-3, 8-1 prg) fouled the Wolves' Mark Andrews with 20.9 seconds left and sent him to the line for one-and-one. Andrews missed the front end. Mesa rebounded and after two timeouts, the Jackrabbits played for a final shot with 12.9 seconds remaining. 

Mesa worked the ball in the low post to its most potent option on the night -- 6-foot-10 center Isaac Allen (15 points and 11 rebounds). Andrews, who had the task most of the night defending the half-foot taller Allen, did all he could bodying his opponent. It was enough. Allen's  5-footer fell short and the Wolves corraled the rebound in the corner as time expired.

"They defended us like we defended them," Desert Mountain coach Todd Fazio said. "We see it every day in practice. Our teams are a lot alike. They didn't want us shooting threes and we didn't want them to either. We were fortunate to make a stop at the end. (Allen) has come a long way since last year. He's improved. But we wanted to make him beat us. Mark was our MVP tonight. He gave us toughness inside."

Allen nearly did, but what won the game equally was Rhymes decision-making, which was solid  most of the game. Rhymes made the only two threes Desert Mountain connected on in the first half, which staked the Wolves to a 17-10 lead early in the second period. By halftime Mesa had pecked away to lead 19-18, keeping Desert Mountain without a field goal the final six-plus minutes of the second quarter.

In the second half,  Rhymes (11-of-21 from the field for the game) made one perimeter shot and the rest of his 17 second-half points came from penetration or free throws. Mesa was stubborn in its defense of the other players. Rhymes, particularly after intermission, was quick enough and decisive enough to get to the basket and finish. 

"They weren't giving help on the dribble so he took it in," Fazio said. ... "This is a big win on the road. But we're big on the process. This is just one brick."

Andrews finished with seven points and seven rebounds to back up Rhymes big night. D.J. Henderson scored in double figures for Mesa, finishing with 11 points. Henderson's steal and basket and baskets inside from Allen (two) and Velasco (one) early in the fouth period brought the Jackrabbits back from a 39-31 deficit. Mesa led for the final time (41-40) with 4:45 left in the game.