By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — The prospects of hosting a first-round playoff game became much rosier for the Central Arizona College women's basketball team with Wednesday night's 106-82 victory over Pima at the George Young Activity Center.
The Vaqueras avenged a Jan. 13 loss to the Aztecs in impressive fashion by shooting 47 percent from the field while holding Pima to 36 percent.
"We hit some shots, but it all started on the defensive end," CAC coach Denise Cardenas said. "I don't think Pima was expecting us to play defense like that. But like I've been telling our players all year, our best offense is our defense."
Central (19-9, 15-5 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) will host Arizona Western in the opening round of the Division I Region 1 tournament provided it wins its final two regular-season games (Saturday at home against Eastern Arizona and Tuesday at South Mountain) and Western loses one of its final three games. That could very well happen since the Matadors close against Pima (21-7, 15-5 ACCAC), which is ranked No. 7 in Division II.
Cardenas was fully aware that defeating the Aztecs "was pretty much our only shot of hosting a playoff game." The Vaqueras went ahead to stay by ending the first quarter with a 9-0 run, then took total command by outscoring Pima 36-17 in the third period.
Central led by as many as 29 points in scoring 100 or more for the third time this season.
The Vaqueras committed just six turnovers and converted 13 Pima turnovers into 18 points. They went 18 for 18 on free throws and had an 18-16 edge in second-chance points, including a 10-2 advantage in the second half.
Pima's Jacqulynn Nakai, the ACCAC's top scorer with a 17.3 average going in, finished with 28 points. Alliyah Bryant scored 15, Izzy Spruit had 12 and the Aztecs got 10 apiece from Aubre Fortner and Christine Ortega.
There were six lead changes and two ties in the first quarter, which concluded with the Vaqueras up 27-22. They went ahead to stay at 23-22 on Butler's 3-pointer with 1:07 remaining.
Central held Pima to 3-of-17 shooting from the floor in the second period. The Aztecs trailed 52-44 at halftime, a deficit that would have been much larger if they hadn't gone 13 for 14 from the line.
The Vaqueras began the third quarter with a 14-3 surge that included three-point plays by McCall and Knox. Jerraysha Smith also converted a three-point play during an 8-0 run that extended CAC's lead to 74-50 with 4:02 left.
Guadian connected for two of her six 3-pointers in the final minute of the third.
After going 13 of 23 from the field in the third quarter, the Vaqueras were just 6 of 21 in the fourth, not that it mattered. Their third and final 29-point lead came on Knox's second-chance basket that made it 98-69 with 3:50 left. Central reached 100 points on Butler's basket with 2:53 to play.
CAC's point total was a season high against Pima, which came in allowing 62.9 per game. The Vaqueras were averaging 75.8 points.
Eastern Arizona was 5-22 overall and 5-14 in the ACCAC going into Wednesday's action. South Mountain was 10-14, 7-12.
Arizona Western was 19-8 overall and 14-5 in ACCAC play entering its game against Scottsdale (6-21, 3-16). The Matadors are at Chandler-Gilbert (4-23, 2-17) on Saturday. They own the tiebreaker in the battle for the third and final spot in the Region 1 tourney by virtue of going 2-0 against CAC during the regular season.