Vaqueros clinch playoff spot with win over South Mountain
SIGNAL PEAK — The playoffs await for the Central Arizona College men's basketball team.
The Vaqueros outscored South Mountain 23-9 in the final 6:33 to come away with an 83-71 victory on Tuesday night at the George Young Activity Center in their regular-season finale. They will be the No. 4 seed in the four-team Division I Region 1 tournament, which begins Saturday night with Central playing at No. 1 Arizona Western and No. 2 Cochise hosting No. 3 Mesa. The title game is Monday night at the highest seed.
"We did what we needed to do," CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said. "I believe in this team. It's just going to take full concentration" to make a run in the postseason.
South Mountain, last among the 12 teams in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference, led by as many as eight points in the early going and 45-42 at halftime. The Cougars snapped the game's seventh tie with 7:02 remaining when Desmond Johnson made two free throws for a 62-60 lead.
After that, it was all Central (16-14, 9-13 ACCAC).
JaQuan Johnson's 3-pointer with 6:33 left put the Vaqueros ahead to stay at 63-62. It was the 12th lead change of the night. He also made two of CAC's next three baskets before the Vaqueros secured the win by making 12 of 16 free throws in the final 3:33.
Central held the Cougars, who were averaging 92.0 points, to 26 points in the second half.
"When we play together and are locked in, we're a really good defensive team," Aaron said.
The Vaqueros overcame 22 turnovers.
"We can't afford to squander away possessions (in the playoffs) because now every mistake is going to be magnified," Aaron said.
South Mountain's Ferron Flavors connected for seven 3-pointers, getting six in the first half, to lead the Cougars with 28 points. James Sosinski scored 18 and Desmond Johnson had 15.
South Mountain (12-18, 4-18 ACCAC) built leads of 19-11 and 21-13, the latter with 11:39 remaining in the first half.
Central's DaShawn Johnson was fouled while making a reverse layup, and his resulting free throw put the Vaqueros up 55-50 with 15:17 to play. But they scored just one point on their next 11 possessions, committing six turnovers during that stretch, and fell behind 60-56 on Bryan Battle's basket with 10:05 left.
The Cougars had a 13-2 advantage in second-chance points in the first half and finished with a 20-11 edge in that category. The Vaqueros outscored South Mountain 13-9 in points off turnovers.