Ed Petruska-Casa Grande Dispatch/Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — Victory was so tantalizingly close for the Central Arizona College men's basketball team. The Vaqueros could not seal the deal, however, and fell 94-91 in overtime to Phoenix on Wednesday night at the George Young Activity Center.
It was an agonizing defeat for Central, which led 50-38 at halftime and 78-75 with 31 seconds remaining in regulation. The Vaqueros (4-6, 1-3 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) then missed three consecutive free throws before allowing Joey Cipolletti's tying 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds left.
The Bears (6-3, 3-1 ACCAC) outscored Central 16-13 in the 5-minute extra session. The Vaqueros led only once in overtime, at 81-80 on Lake Del Mar's 3-pointer with 3:28 remaining.
Phoenix scored the next nine points, going up 89-81 on Kenny Sutton's basket with 2:03 to play.
Andrew Leonard's 3-pointer with 34.3 seconds left sliced the deficit to 92-90. Trailing 94-91, Central had possession with 5.1 seconds remaining. But two missed free throws with 3.4 seconds left ended the Vaqueros' hopes.
"We definitely had our chances," CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said. "It's very disappointing."
Aaron said he was pleased to see Phoenix had abandoned its zone defense for a man-to-man to start the second half.
"I felt that we would have the advantage," he said. "It was surprising to me that we couldn't capitalize."
In fact, the Vaqueros withered. They committed 15 turnovers in the second half and overtime, which the Bears converted into 21 points.
Danny Garrick opened the second half with his fifth 3-pointer of the night to give CAC a 53-38 lead. But the Vaqueros did not connect from the field again until nearly 10 minutes later, when Trevor Irish's basket tied it 59-59.
In between, Central had a scoreless stretch of 11 consecutive possessions, eight of which ended with turnovers. A 13-0 run pulled Phoenix within 55-53, and the Bears took a 59-57 lead on Rees Plummer's basket with 10:24 left in regulation.
Trailing 71-67 following a 3-point play by Rashaad Goolsby with 3:50 remaining in regulation, the Vaqueros went up 77-73 behind 3-pointers by Cory Deveaux with 1:26 left and Will Osborn with 42.5 seconds to play.
Garrick scored 19 of his 22 points in the first half. Irish finished with 19 points, Leonard had 13 and Deveaux scored 12. Leonard had four of CAC's 15 3-pointers.
Emanuel Gant led the Bears with 28 points, followed by Plummer with 22, Sutton with 16, Cipolletti with 15 and Goolsby with 13.