By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — The last seven minutes of Wednesday night's game were not very pleasant for the Central Arizona College men's basketball team.
Ahead 39-32 at halftime and 61-60 with 7:24 remaining, the Vaqueros could not hold off Pima at the George Young Activity Center. The Aztecs, ranked No. 8 in the NJCAA Division II poll, closed with a methodical 19-7 run to come away with an 84-70 victory.
"We definitely let them off the hook," CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said. "Obviously Pima is a good team. But we gave them too many second chances in the second half."
The Aztecs (25-3, 17-3 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) scored 12 second-chance points in the last seven minutes, starting with Isaiah Murphy's 3-pointer that put them ahead to stay at 63-61.
Pima extended the lead to seven points before Vaqueros (11-16, 7-13 ACCAC) pulled within 70-67 on two free throws by Lonyae Jones with 4:12 remaining. The Aztecs finished with a 14-3 run to secure the win.
"We looked tired and were stagnant on offense" down the stretch, Aaron said.
Pima prevailed by 46 points (128-82) when the teams met on Jan. 13, handing CAC its worst loss of the season. Although the Vaqueros were much more competitive on Wednesday night, they couldn't sustain their first-half success.
"In the second half, we took shots that weren't bad but we took them too early," Aaron said. "That allowed Pima to get out and run, play their game."
Garrick's 3 gave Central its last seven-point lead at 51-44 with 12:28 remaining.
Murphy made five 3-pointers and led all scorers with 31 points, his season high. Alize Travis had 18 points and Justin Bessard scored 12 for the Aztecs.
Pima has surpassed 100 points 17 times this season and came in averaging an ACCAC-best 105.8.
Central is battling Eastern Arizona for the fourth and final berth in the Division I Region 1 tournament. The Gila Monsters, who play at CAC on Saturday, had a 7-12 conference mark going into Wednesday's game against Chandler-Gilbert.
The Vaqueros close the regular season on Tuesday at South Mountain (17-10, 10-9 ACCAC). Eastern finishes at home against Glendale (8-19, 2-17).