By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — The playoffs officially are out of reach for the Central Arizona College men's basketball team.
Donald Carter III scored on a drive with 5.3 seconds remaining to send Scottsdale to a 59-57 victory on Saturday at the George Young Activity Center — the 15th lead change of the game. The ball dropped through after taking a few bounces on the rim.
Even if the Vaqueros (10-19, 8-13 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) prevail in their regular-season finale at Eastern Arizona on Tuesday, they can't catch Eastern or Mesa, which will be in the Division I Region 1 tournament along with Cochise and Arizona Western. Eastern had a 10-10 ACCAC mark going into Saturday's action. Mesa was 9-11, but the Thunderbirds own the tiebreaker over Central.
Following Carter's go-ahead basket, the Vaqueros called a timeout with 3.1 seconds left. The ball was inbounded to Richard Polanco, who missed a forced 3-pointer. Malachi Faison's putback basket came after the buzzer, the officials ruled following a brief conference.
"I was proud of our effort," CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said. "It was a close game. I wish we could have put it together a little sooner."
Central's point total was a season low. The Vaqueros shot 33 percent from the field, going 4 for 21 on 3-pointers and 22 of 67 overall. They connected on just 2 of 8 free throws in the second half and finished 9 for 17 from the line.
Scottsdale's point total tied a season low for a CAC opponent. The Artichokes (19-10, 11-10 ACCAC) shot 36 percent, going 1 for 13 on 3-pointers and 26 of 73 overall. They made all five of their second-half free throws, including two by Carter that produced a 57-57 tie with 51.4 seconds to play.
Polanco's 3-pointer with 1:01 remaining gave Central its last lead at 57-55. He scored 17 points to lead the Vaqueros, who have lost three straight after climbing into playoff contention with a three-game winning streak. CAC went 6-5 at home this season.
"Consistency definitely has been the toughest thing for us this season," Aaron said. "We'll look good one game, then the next game it's like we don't know anything."