CAC rolls past Arizona Western in Region 1 tourney
By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — A dazzling display of defense and two key runs carried the Central Arizona College women's basketball team to a surprisingly easy victory in the opening round of the Division I Region 1 playoffs on Tuesday night.
The second-seeded Vaqueras will play for the region title and a berth in the NJCAA Tournament on Friday at top-seeded Cochise after thrashing Arizona Western 78-58 at the George Young Activity Center. Central went 0-2 against the Matadors during the regular season.
"I really wanted this for the girls because I don't feel like the other two times we played them we were us," CAC coach Denise Cardenas said. "I really wanted them to get it with a stamp on it. I didn't want it to be a close game."
And it wasn't, not after the Vaqueras (22-9) went on a 23-0 run in the third quarter to build a 25-point lead. Central had a 13-0 surge in the second period to turn a one-point deficit into a 29-17 advantage.
The Vaqueras were rewarded for their defensive intensity by scoring 24 points off 23 turnovers by third-seeded Western (21-10).
"I liked the effort," Cardenas said.
Kiara Knox and reserve Jamie Young both scored 20 points for CAC, which led 34-29 at halftime and 63-41 after three quarters. The Matadors never got closer than 18 points in the final period. Kendra Butler supplied 13 points and Megan Guadian had 12.
Young made six 3-pointers and Guadian had four as Central finished 10 for 26 from long range and 27 of 66 overall (41 percent) in notching its fifth consecutive win.
"Our (3-point) shooters weren't lights out, but they were both consistent," Cardenas said.
Destiny Gonzalez led Western with 18 points and Gloria Mulumba had 13 for the Matadors, who shot 39 percent from the field. AWC went 5 for 21 on 3-pointers and 22 for 57 overall.
There were seven lead changes and two ties in a hotly contested first quarter, which ended with the Matadors ahead 17-16.
Butler's basket with 9:26 left in the second period put the Vaqueras ahead to stay at 18-17. It ignited the 13-0 run that ended on Young's 3-pointer with 5:53 remaining in the half. Young drained five 3-pointers in the first two quarters.
The Matadors did not score on their first seven possessions of the second quarter, going 0 for 3 from the field with four turnovers. But they did manage to get back in the game by outscoring CAC 12-5 in the final 5 1/2 minutes.
Aimee Brett's 3-pointer pulled Western within 38-36 with 6:54 left in the third quarter. The Matadors would not score again until 12 possessions later, when Raven Roberts hit a 3-pointer with 1:04 remaining.
The Vaqueras, meanwhile, were nearly unstoppable for the next several minutes. They went 8 for 10 from the field, including 2 for 2 on 3-pointers, while extending the margin to 61-36. Knox scored eight points and Guadian had both of the 3-pointers during that stretch.
Now it's on to face Cochise (28-2). Central split with the Apaches during the regular season, winning 71-68 on Nov. 29 at home and losing 56-53 on Jan. 27 in Douglas. The Vaqueras will be looking to return to the national tourney following a two-year absence.
"I felt deep down (before the season began) that it was going to be us and Cochise for the title," Cardenas said. "I don't think Cochise wants any part of us. I'm looking forward to the challenge."