SIGNAL PEAK — As early-season wins go, the Central Arizona College women's basketball team racked up a biggie on Wednesday night.
The Vaqueras improved to 2-0 in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference and 5-2 overall with a 71-68 decision over defending league champion Cochise at the George Young Activity Center. Central withstood a furious rally by the Apaches (6-2, 1-1 ACCAC), who trailed by 16 points with 5:20 remaining.
"We needed that one," CAC coach Denise Cardenas said. "They were destined to come back on us. It was good to see us pull it out."
Morticia McCall made five of the Vaqueras' nine 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 25 points. Kendra Butler provided 14 points and Kiara Knox had 11 for Central, which went 14 of 28 from the field in the second half after making just 10 of 40 attempts in the first two quarters.
"Sometimes we get confused on shot selection," Cardenas said. "When we get in a rhythm, we have people who can knock it down."
McCall scored 13 points in the first half and 12 in the second. Butler and Knox both had nine points in the second half.
There were 12 lead changes and two ties in the game before CAC went ahead to stay at 41-38 on McCall's 3-pointer with 1:58 left in the third quarter. The lead grew to 60-44 on Knox's layup with 5:10 to play.
Cassandra Gonzalez scored on a drive with 2:09 remaining to give the Vaqueras a 66-54 lead. But the Apaches stormed back by making five of their last six shots, with four of those baskets being 3-pointers.
Deezha Battle hit the first three bombs, and Awa Keita's 3-pointer made it 70-68 with 4.4 seconds left.
Gonzalez sank a free throw with 2.1 seconds remaining, and Cochise was unable to get off a potential game-tying shot before time expired.
"We have to run our stuff (effectively) to dissect teams and wear them down, and we did that tonight," Cardenas said.
Battle scored 23 points and 6-foot-6 Yemiyah Morris had 12 off the bench for Cochise, which shot 44 percent from the field and converted CAC's 17 turnovers into 20 points.
The Vaqueras wound up shooting 35 percent (24 of 68) and outscored the Apaches 14-5 in second-chance points. Central had 13 points off 19 Cochise turnovers.
The Apaches led 14-13 after one quarter and it was 28-28 at halftime. The Vaqueras outscored Cochise 18-10 in the third period, getting a pair of 3-pointers from McCall, to take a 46-38 advantage into the fourth quarter.