Ed Petruska-Contributing Writer-Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — The Central Arizona College women's basketball team secured a playoff berth with Wednesday night's 73-69 victory over Chandler-Gilbert at the George Young Activity Center.
Now the push is on to host a March 5 Division I Region 1 tournament semifinal game. The Vaqueras have four regular-season games remaining in their battle with Eastern Arizona for home-court advantage for the first round of postseason play.
Defeating D-II Chandler-Gilbert was no easy task. Central (17-8, 13-4 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) trailed by nine points in the first half and was down seven heading into the fourth quarter.
The Vaqueras began the final period with a 13-0 burst, scoring on their first six possessions. Chandler-Gilbert (15-11, 9-9 ACCAC) failed to score on its first eight possessions in falling behind 66-60 with 6:40 remaining.
"It felt like (Chandler-Gilbert) couldn't miss, but we hit big shots when we needed them," CAC coach Denise Cardenas said. "We grinded it out, and I'll take the win. But we have to stop turning the ball over."
Central committed 17 turnovers, which the Coyotes converted into 21 points.
The Vaqueras were playing without both of their point guards — starter Alexis Vaughn and backup Jeuzel Pollins. They lost another starter when Morticia McCall went down with an ankle injury less than two minutes into the game.
"I haven't had my full team in uniform all season, but players are stepping up," Cardenas said.
Ayanna Clark supplied 27 points and Guadian finished with 22 to provide the bulk of CAC's scoring. Four other players combined for 24 points.
Clark, the No. 2 scorer in the ACCAC with a 22.5 average, had nine points in the second quarter and 10 in the third. Guadian knocked down six of Central's nine 3-pointers.
In addition to being plagued by turnovers, the Vaqueras had to overcome 39 percent shooting to complete the season sweep of the Coyotes (Central prevailed 74-73 on Jan. 5).
Izzy Enriquez led Chandler-Gilbert with 21 points, followed by Kris Quigley with 20, MiKaila Kayanni-Lee with 13 and Jasmine Ruepenny with 10.
The Coyotes shot 44 percent for the game, but went 4 for 15 from the field and made 1 of 6 free throws in the fourth quarter.
The Vaqueras were down 19-15 after one quarter and 37-35 at halftime. They outscored the Coyotes 20-9 in the fourth quarter, going 6 for 12 from the floor (3 for 5 on 3-pointers) and 5 for 6 from the line.
Central did not take its first lead until a layup by Zhane Lewis put them ahead 39-37 with 9:24 left in the third quarter. Chandler-Gilbert held a 60-53 lead at the end of the period after getting back-to-back 3-pointers by Enriquez in the final minute.