MESQUITE, Texas -- When Mesquite sophomore guard Alex Cooper was asked how he planned to celebrate Tuesday’s 51-44 over DeSoto, the No. 3 Class 5A team in the state, a grin spread across his face.
With first place in District 11-5A at stake, Mesquite (15-9, 4-0 in district) overcame a nine-point defict in the third quarter and simply outplayed DeSoto (25-3, 3-1) in the final 12 minutes.
Cooper finished with 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting and point guard Gary Finley scored 17 to fuel the upset before a lively crowd at Skeeter Gym.
“Defense did it for us,’’ said Finley. “Just straight up man-to-man. People were doubting us, but we just beat the No. 3 team in the state.’’
First Finley and later Cooper converted both ends of tense 1-and-1 foul shots in the final 30 seconds to secure the upset.
DeSoto never led after Finley hit a 12-foot jumper with 1:15 on the third-period clock.
Cooper, who was 4-for-4 in the third period with two 3-pointers, allowed the Skeeters to take a three-point lead to the fourth quarter with his high-arching basket from the left wing.
With every tick of the clock in the fourth period, Mesquite gained confidence.
DeSoto, No. 3 in the ESPNDallas.com Class 5A Top 10, seemed rushed in the final quarter, sinking only 3-of-12 shots. From behind the 3-point arc, the Eagles missed all five tries in the fourth quarter and were just 2-of-14 for the game.
“Mesquite was physical and we backed down,’’ said DeSoto coach Chris Dyer, who had a lengthy postgame session with his team. “I guess we got caught reading our press clippings."
“Mesquite played a great game. But I’m probably more disappointed with our team than I’ve been since 2001 or 2002,’’ Dyer added.
Sophomore guard Matt Jones was DeSoto’s best player on this night, hitting 7-of-9 field goals on the way to a team-high 18 points.
Florida State signee Antwan Space was held to 12 points. The 6-foot-6 senior wasn’t allowed to dominate inside thanks to the defensive work of Eric Reed and Ty Belt.
The Skeeters struggled early in the season, but Cooper said a team meeting before district made a big difference.
“We’re a different team now,’’ the sophomore said.
The Eagles don’t need Facebook to get that message.