Ed Petruska-Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — How gritty was the Central Arizona College women's basketball team in Saturday's 85-80 victory over South Mountain at the George Young Activity Center?
Well, the Vaqueras overcame a 13-point deficit, and they did it without getting a single point in the game from leading scorer Ayanna Clark.
"It was definitely a grind, but I'll take this win for sure," CAC coach Denise Cardenas said. "I'm proud of the way we stuck it out. I'm just glad we got this one."
Clark came in averaging 23.5 points, which ranks second in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. But the five-time Division I ACCAC player of the week saw limited minutes due to foul trouble.
Picking up the slack were Megan Guadian (19 points), Morticia McCall (17), Alexis Vaughn (14) and former Casa Grande Union High School standout Taylor Davis (12). Vaughn was the lone starter among the quartet.
The game's fourth and final lead change came with 1:57 remaining when Zhane Lewis scored off a feed from Clark to put Central ahead 76-75. After Vaughn's basket with 1:23 left extended the lead to 78-75, McCall drained a 3-pointer to make it 81-77 with 46.4 seconds to play.
South Mountain closed to 81-80 on Beyonce Jordan's 3-pointer with 33 seconds remaining, but she missed a tying 3 with 3.9 seconds left. Vaughn made 4 of 4 free throws for the game's final points.
"At the end of the day, defense is what gets it done for you," Cardenas said. "But we also had some players hit some big shots."
Central (16-8, 12-5 ACCAC) held the Cougars (12-9, 9-8) to 6-of-18 shooting in the fourth quarter. The Vaqueras went 9 for 17 in outscoring South Mountain 25-18.
The Cougars went ahead for the first time at 32-30 on a basket by Haley Eaves with 3:01 left in the second quarter and eventually built the lead to 52-39 with 7:06 remaining in the third when Manda Perkins' basket capped a 10-2 run.
Three-pointers by McCall, Vaughn and Guadian helped CAC trim the deficit to 62-60 entering the fourth quarter.
The Vaqueras produced the game's fifth tie when McCall's second-chance basket made it 70-70 with 4:20 left, then went ahead 72-70 on an 8-foot bank shot by Davis with 3:24 remaining. Davis also scored on CAC's next possession before the Cougars regained the lead at 75-74 on a three-point play by Prima Chellis and two free throws by Jordan.
Central held SMCC scoreless on its first 11 possessions of the game in taking an 8-0 lead. The Vaqueras went up by 10 for the second time at 24-14 early in the second quarter.
But South Mountain closed the period by outscoring CAC 28-13 to take a 42-37 halftime advantage.
The Vaqueras shot 50 percent from the field in the second half to finish at 41 percent. They had a 29-17 advantage in second-chance points.
Chellis scored 24 points, Eaves had 19 and Kaylah Burrows scored 12 for the Cougars, who defeated Central 89-82 in their Dec. 12 meeting