By RODNEY HAAS Staff Writer Casa Grande Dispatch/Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — Out of 40 minutes on Saturday, the Central Arizona College men's basketball team led Glendale for all but the first two minutes and the last 16 seconds.
With CAC holding onto a 79-78 lead with 16 seconds left, Glendale's DJ Lujan hit a jump shot that gave the Gauchos their first lead since an early 3-2 advantage and handed Glendale an 80-79 win while giving the Vaqueros their fourth conference loss.
"This is the pattern that we have been in the last three games. This is the hole we dug ourselves in and we have to find a way to get out of this rut," CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said. "I don't know. We work hard and play well in spurts but we just seem to can't concentrate to play a full 40 minutes and we end up in a dogfight. I don't know if we lose the fight or if the other teams are just better. I don't know."
Central (4-7, 1-4 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) has struggled as of late with losses to Scottsdale, Cochise and Phoenix College (in overtime on Wednesday) — games that Aaron said could've easily been the other way around.
On Saturday, it was the same deal with the Vaqueros leading 41-31 at the start of the second half but slowly watching Glendale chip away by going on a 24-14 run to tie it at 55-55 and then finding themselves in a back-and-forth battle to the end.
"I really don't know what to say. We just have to figure out a way to break this funk," Aaron said. "It's just been tough these last few games. I'm definitely not giving up. It's still early. We have plenty of opportunity to turn it around and we need complete buy-in from our guys."
Trevor Irish led Central with 22 points as the 7-foot center from Maine dominated the second half with 14. Danny Garrick and Andrew Leonard each added 18 points with nine of Garrick's points coming from behind the 3-point line.
Lujan led Glendale with 19 points, while Bradley Dominique added 18 points and Kireed Johnson had 17 points.
Central led 31-25 at halftime after Glendale went on a 10-6 run to cut the lead to six after the Vaqueros held a 25-15 lead.
"It's disappointing. That's the only word for it," Aaron said. "It's been the last three games or four games. It started as soon as we started league play."
If there is a sliver lining for the Vaqueros, it's the comfort of knowing that Saturday's game was the last before finals and the long Christmas break. Central will return to the court on Dec. 29 against Just Hoops Prep before getting back into conference play on Jan. 3 at Mesa.
It also gives Aaron a chance to hit the reset button before the grind of conference play gets going again.
"We can reevaluate and look at our team and see what changes need to be made," he said. "Not only with personnel, but with our practices. There are things that we can do."