RICHARDSON – Jesuit has struggled to close out games this season. The latest and final example came on Tuesday.
The Rangers controlled most of their Class 6A Region II bi-district playoff game before Mesquite rallied for a 57-56 overtime victory to end Jesuit’s season in heartbreaking fashion.
The Rangers (20-10) held a 12-point lead late in the third quarter before the Skeeters (21-9) began chipping away. Mesquite eventually took its first lead on the opening possession of overtime, and Bryson Robinson capped a terrific performance with the game-winning free throw with 4.2 seconds left.
“They made some good plays,” said Jesuit head coach Chris Hill. “We did some silly things on offense. They took away our shooters and we weren’t finishing.”
That’s the opposite of what happened in the first quarter, when the Rangers raced to a double-digit lead while the Skeeters endured a five-minute stretch without a field goal. The Jesuit offense was balanced and efficient, with sharp outside shooting from Marcus Hill and Michael Jankovich.
Robinson kept Mesquite within striking distance during the first three quarters, when the 6-foot-4 guard scored 24 of his game-high 29 points. The Skeeters trailed 45-33 late in the third quarter before closing the gap with a 9-0 run that included a steal and buzzer-beating 3-pointer by John Milton.
Mesquite finally tied the score at 52 on a free throw by Milton with 1:51 remaining in the game. Jankovich’s baseline floater allowed Jesuit to reclaim the lead before Robinson hit a layup to send the game into overtime.
The Rangers had a final chance after Robinson’s free throw in the extra period, but Ben Kunasek’s half-court attempt bounced off the rim as the game ended.
Mesquite avenged a 65-52 loss to Jesuit in the season opener in November. In Tuesday’s rematch, the Rangers played without one of their leading scorers Mitch Prendergast, who was sidelined with a knee injury.
Rusty Landon led Jesuit with 16 points and five rebounds, while Jankovich added 14 points and Marcus Hill had 11.
Milton made some key contributions down the stretch for the Skeeters, and finished with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Anthony McGee contributed 11 points.
The Rangers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year but will return the bulk of their roster next season. Among the team’s top scorers, only Landon and Kunasek are seniors.
“They were a great team to coach,” Chris Hill said. “They worked hard all the time.”