Ed Petruska-Contributing Writer-Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — Another strong defensive effort — its best of the season, in fact — was the key factor in a season-high third consecutive victory for the Central Arizona College men's basketball team on Wednesday night.
The Vaqueros led by as many as 33 points in overwhelming Chandler-Gilbert 85-57 at the George Young Activity Center. CAC limited its previous two opponents to 59 and 63 points.
The defense has improved, CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said, because "our concentration has gotten better. We've had some breakdowns here and there, but the response and recovery is much better."
Central (10-16, 8-10 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) came into the game trailing Mesa and Eastern Arizona by one game in the race for the fourth and final berth in the Division I Region 1 tournament. The Vaqueros conclude a four-game homestand on Saturday against Glendale, then play two of their final three games on the road. They are 6-3 at home this season.
Playing the last three games at the George Young Activity Center "obviously has been to our advantage," Aaron said. "It happened to fall at the right time for us. It's given us a chance to build momentum."
CAC never trailed against the Coyotes (16-10, 10-8 ACCAC), who have lost five in a row.
The Vaqueros opened the game with a 19-5 surge in the first 13 minutes and led by as many as 17 points before settling for a 38-25 halftime lead.
The margin grew to 20 points at 50-30 on JC Canahuate's 3-pointer with 16:55 remaining, and a 12-0 run boosted Central's lead to 83-50 with 3:22 left.
The Coyotes were never closer than 11 points in the second half.
The Vaqueros made nine 3-pointers, getting three apiece in the second half from Canahuate and Richard Polanco. Canahuate finished with a game-high 24 points and Polanco had 18. Quincy Smith scored 11 of his 14 points in the first half.
The top scorers for the Coyotes were Blake Williams with 17 points and Joe Abiakam with 13.
Three of Central's remaining opponents entered Wednesday's game with losing ACCAC records. The only team with a winning conference record was Scottsdale, which the Vaqueros host on Feb. 23 before wrapping up the regular season on Feb. 26 at Eastern.