Mesa boys soccer coach T. J. Hagen didn't get much time to celebrate his team's and match's first goal in the second minute Thursday night against visting Basha. That's because Basha tallied the equalizer a minute later.
But Mesa's second goal came in the 20th minute gave Hagen a reprieve. He didn't hesitate after that one to remind his team there was still 60 minutes of soccer left. And they listened as the scoring for the night was over and Mesa ended up landing a 2-1 win over Basha to keep its Division I postseason hopes alive.
“We did well, did what we had to do,” Hagen, who was honored before the game with a plaque commemorating his 200th career coaching win earlier the season, said. “We're hoping that beating a highly ranked team like Basha will help us make the climb to qualify. We'll wait for the bracket show (Friday afternoon) and hope for the best.”
Mesa finished the regular season 10-8-2 and 7-5 in power-ranking matches. The Jackrabbits were 18th in Thursday's power-rankings, slightly behind No. 16 North Canyon and No. 17 North. Those schools finished their schedules on Wednesday. Basha, which entered the contest at No. 10 in the power rankings and has a postseason berth clinched, concluded the regular season 8-5-5, 6-4-2 prm. Basha will be making its first postseason appearance in six years under first-year coach Scott De La Fe.
Late arriving fans likely missed the opening goals of the contest since they came in the first three minutes. Mesa, celebrating Senior Night, got its first goal from Jose Chico off an assist from Victor Ortiz. Chico normally doesn't start, got a start due to Senior Night.
Basha tied it in flash with senior Santiago Ortega putting a shot past Mesa keeper Matt Winkler. Mesa got what proved to be the game-winner from sophomore Cory Crawford with the assist from Mesa's leading scorer Brian Perea. It was only the second goal of the season for Crawford.
Both coaches felt motivation played a big part in the outcome. Mesa needed the win to stay in the playoff chase and played like it. The Jackrabbits did a nice job of playing possession soccer, which Basha usually does. Basha's best chance — and there weren't many juicy ones in the second half fore the Bears, came in the 70th minute off a corner. Aiden McGlothan's header was denied by Winkler.
“They were playing for the playoffs, De La Fe said. “I was hoping we'd come out and play better with a chance to improve our ranking. “We were kind of flat. But Mesa played very well. Better than we did, and way better than they did when we played earlier (a Basha win in a tournament).”