Mesa’s victory over Mountain View another showcase of peak school rivalry

January 17, 2024 by Ben Stapley, AZPreps365

Mesa High's AJ Seumanu (23) goes up for a layup past Mountain View's Grant Hale during Tuesday night's game. Photo Courtesy of Mesa Athletics

The Mesa basketball team gave its rambunctious student body exactly what it craved Tuesday night: a victory over bitter rival Mountain View.

The Jackrabbits used a balanced offense to frustrate the Toros for most of the game, the result of which was a 57-43 win in a 6A East Valley contest at Mesa High.

The 'Rabbits had three players score in double figures. Conway Cummard led with 17 points, while John Petersen (16) and Jarren Galarza (14) combined for 30 more. But it was Galarza's hot hand during a seven minute stretch over the second and third quarters that provided the difference in the game.
The senior drained four consecutive field goals in that time frame, catalyzing a 22-6 run that sent Mesa fans into full delirium. 

"When Jarren is hitting the three pointers it makes it so much easier for the rest of us," Conway Cummard said of Galarza's long range accuracy.

"When he gets on a streak like that, all the focus goes towards him."

Galarza's fourth three-pointer gave the 'Rabbits a 40-24 lead in the third quarter.  They would carry that lead into the fourth quarter, and the game was essentially over.

Big Game Experience

Tuesday night's excursion between Mesa and Mountain View demonstrated a few things:

Records are meaningless in this basketball rivalry, and lastnight's event proved it's still one of the state's best. 

"This atmosphere is just so electric," Mountain View principal Mike Oliver said well before the game began, almost in awe at the mass of humanity already packed into one gymnasium. 

Records may not matter in a rivalry game, but experience in an environment like Tuesday  night does.
Conway and Galarza are all seniors, along with AJ Seumanu, perhaps Mesa's most unique player in terms of size and position. Listed as a 6-2 center, Seumanu is undersized on paper, but built to handle the heavy lifting required down low. He can also handle the ball like a guard. Having lost two close games to Mountain View last year, Mesa's experienced seniors undoubtedly had their sights set on lastnight's game for some time.

"Seeing and hearing our fans show up like that really gives us extra confidence," Cummard said about lastnight's raucous home crowd. 
Mesa Athletic Director David Klecka has experienced the most intense of rivalry atmosphere in his time. First as a football player at McClintock, when the rivalry with Tempe High was one of Arizona's most fierce. Then as a coach and administrator at both Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista. 
"This was unbelievable tonight," Klecka said. "I loved every second of it. The energy was rising during the freshman game. It reminded me a lot of the Ahwatukee Bowl for many years. In these types of games, records don't matter, but I do agree experience is key in this type of setting."

Rare Rebuild 

Mountain View has one of its youngest and least experienced teams in years. The Toros virtually lost last season's entire starting lineup that fell inches short of the 6A state championship game. Juniors Jackson Woolley and Bryson Gundry are the Toros top  players. Woolley scored 14 points and tried to will Mountain View back in the game, it just wasn't enough, as the Toros fell to 8-11. Fans are likely to see a closer game the next time around, and coach Andy Johnson will be the main reason.

Carrying On

Depending on perspective, Mesa's student body and fan base are either the most loyal and spirited in the state or the most rambunctious. When it comes to its most hated rival coming to their place, they go next level, even more so with basketball. It's almost a daylong event on campus. As usual, the gym was overflowing well before the junior varsity game was finished. Both sides were packed, but the 'apparel' worn by most Mesa fans made it clear they couldn't wait for this game to start.

Court Cops

As the varsity game finally concluded, the Mesa student section tried rushing the court, only to be held back (barely) a handful of Mesa's finest police officers who were more than prepared.

Perhaps emotions were running higher than normal, as they may have smelt blood in the water since the second quarter. Maybe the controversial finish in last year's game in the same gym still festered. 

But to their credit, the Mesa fan base rides and dies with their team no matter win, loss, rain or shine. They were just as loud and spirited to the bitter end of a blowout football loss in October to the same hated rival. And just like lastnight, and after every sporting event, players and students gather together to sing the 'Carry On' fight song. It's a tradition running nearly a century.

"These kids and community are incredibily loyal no matter what," Klecka added. "It's so impressive and such a great place to be." 

Ben Stapley is a staff writer for AZPreps365. He can be reached at