Ed Petruska-Pinal Central Contributing Editor
SIGNAL PEAK — A four-game losing streak ended in emphatic fashion for the Central Arizona College men's basketball team on Wednesday night.
The Vaqueros outscored Tohono O'Odham 26-4 in the final nine minutes to come away with an 87-59 victory at the George Young Activity Center.
Central (8-16, 6-10 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) saw its 22-point halftime lead reduced to six prior to the game-closing surge.
"We were definitely out of sorts," CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said. "Once we finally got a bucket, it calmed our nerves."
JC Canahuate's 3-pointer with 9:09 remaining ignited the decisive run for the Vaqueros, who came in trailing Eastern Arizona by two games in the race for the fourth and final berth in the Division I Region 1 playoffs. Quincy Smith scored eight of his game-high 23 points during the surge.
Up 50-28 at the break, Central was held to 11 points on its first 19 possessions of the second half. The Jegos (2-22, 1-15 ACCAC) poured in 27 points during that stretch, during which the Vaqueros committed five turnovers.
"I knew it was going to happen," Aaron said of Tohono O'Odham's charge. "I knew they were going to start hitting some shots and pick up their defensive intensity."
The Jegos whittled the deficit to 61-55 on Joe Heath's 3-pointer with 10:54 left, then scored on just two of their final 21 possessions. Central came in allowing an ACCAC-worst 85.3 points per game.
"We want to build on the defensive effort," Aaron said. "We have to get stops if we want to win."
Central's next three games are also at home, and he said the Vaqueros must take advantage.
"Our backs are against the wall," Aaron said. "We have to make up that ground. Every game is crucial."
The Vaqueros were missing one of their leading scorers, Andrew Leonard, who was out with an ankle injury.
Sean Brogan connected for six 3-pointers and led Tohono O'Odham with 22 points.
The Jegos have lost 12 straight. Their lone ACCAC win came by forfeit over Phoenix.
CAC attempted 34 free throws, making 25. Tohono O'Odham went 2 for 3 from the line.