GILBERT - Nearly two months of progress seemed to evaporate in three or four minutes for the Dysart Demons Tuesday night.
A late 12-4 run bumped host Mesquite's halftime advantage to 37-27. Still, No. 11 seed Dysart was riding a 13-game wining streak into the game and had played the Wildcats fairly even for 16 minutes.
Instead No. 6 Mesquite found another gear and led 51-27 midway through the third quarter following senior guard Jordan Wollangk's 25-foot swish. The rest of the Wildcats' 85-54 first-round victory was academic.
"My biggest concerns at halftime were the inability to rebound the ball and our inability to get back in transition defense. Those were the two keys we talked about in the second half, and we weren't able to figure it out. It got worse," Dysart coach Keegan Cook said. "Hats off to Mesuite. They played a heck of a game and gave us a lot of problems. They've got great speed. They spread you out and try to get you to double."
For the second straight year, Mesquite (20-7) moves on to a quarterfinal in Tucson, this time against #3 Catalina Foothills (24-2) Friday night.
It figures to be a style clash when the Wildcats bring their pace and space four-guard lineup in to face the Falcons' patterned offense and big men.
"We're used to going down there now and they've got good teams down there. I know they were No. 1 at one point and they have lots of size with their big guy and some guards that can really shoot it," Mesquite coach Michael Edgmon said. "Their style is a little bit different for us. We haven't played a team quite like that. But at the same time, we feel like they haven't seen a team like us. This team is special and I've been saying it for four years."
The Widcats were special Tuesday night, as senior guards Jordan Wollangk and Zaiah Gonzalez and sophomore Nate Calmese repeatedly broke down the Dysart defense before dishing off to cutters for a layup or an open three.
Wollangk led Mesquite with 24 points while Calmese poured in 22. The offense kept humming even when senior point guard Ricky Hernandez, second on the team in scoring and leading in assists, missed most of the third quarter and some of the fourth with a leg injury.
Hernandez still managed 8 points and 5 assists and returned to the game. In his absence, senior guard Jeremiah Foster scored 11 points.
"We have guys that ahve been playing together for a long time. Not just with us and their club team. They have a lot of chemistry with each other. We have guys that can shoot from deep, and can finish at the rim and go 1-on-1," Edgmon said.
Dysart (17-9) had its moments in the first half. Junior guard Toby Fornerette scored 11 of his game-high 26 points.
Junior forward Daryian Matthews had nine points and 8 rebounds at the break and finished with 13 in each category. He blocked five shots on the night and changed many others until the Wildcats adjusted at halftime.
"Some our our big-time scorers like Nate and Ricky were a little tentative at first. We saw a lot of mismatches out there that we weren't really taking advantage of. So we talked about that at halftime," Edgmon said. "We were getting in but their big guys were causing some problems. We said just keep going at them."
This was the Demons' fourth straight trip to the first round of the 4A playoffs. While the program has not gotten over that hump yet, the composition of this team gives hope that next year it will.
Dysart started five juniors most of this season. And its bench was led by two seniors and two sophomores.
"Most of my team is juniors. I think we figured out a lot of things this year, but obviously tonight showed us there's a lot of things we have to get better at," Cook said. "Raul Montoya shows some flashes of being a guy we can go to to take the pressure off Riley and Daryian."