By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer Casa Grande Dispatch/Pinal central
SIGNAL PEAK — Suffocating defense carried the Central Arizona College women's basketball team to a lopsided victory on Saturday at the George Young Activity Center.
The Vaqueras thrashed South Mountain 78-36, limiting the Cougars to six field goals through three quarters.
"Defense has to be our saving grace because we can be stagnant and struggle offensively for some reason," CAC coach Denise Cardenas said.
South Mountain went 3 for 14 from the field in both the first and second periods and 0 for 15 in the third before hitting 6 of 15 shots in the fourth to finish with a .207 shooting percentage. The point total for the Cougars was nearly a season low for a CAC opponent — Tohono O'odham had 35 on Dec. 2.
The Vaqueras improved to 13-6 overall and 9-2 in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. They came in trailing Cochise by one game in the conference standings and tied with Arizona Western.
"There's still a long way to go," Cardenas said. "I'm by no means comfortable."
She said each of the contenders for the No. 1 seed in the three-team Division I Region 1 tournament have been struggling with consistency.
"Sustaining your focus is a difficult thing to do nowadays," she said. "I see that everywhere."
Central begins the second go-round of ACCAC play at home on Wednesday night against Scottsdale.
Kiara Knox scored 20 points for the Vaqueras, who offset 21 turnovers with a .492 shooting percentage. Knox, the ACCAC player of the week for Jan. 8-13, tallied 10 points in each half.
Zhane Lewis was the only other Vaquera to reach double figures, scoring 10 points. Central got nine apiece from Megan Guadian, Jamie Young and Morticia McCall, who combined for eight of the team's 10 3-pointers.
The Vaqueras never trailed. They were up 20-9 after one quarter, 29-17 at halftime and 54-21 going into the fourth.
Central outscored the Cougars 25-4 in the third quarter. The only points for South Mountain (8-8, 5-6 ACCAC) in the period came on free throws.
Raegene Womack led the Cougars with 11 points. Kayla Clark, who came in averaging a team-best 14.9 points, was held to four.
The Vaqueras led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter before South Mountain closed with an 8-2 run after going 0 for 10 from the field with five turnovers on its first 14 possessions.
Guadian's 3-pointer put CAC up 50-20 with 2:51 remaining in the third period. The Vaqueras took a 40-point lead at 64-24 on Jerraysha Smith's basket with 6:25 to play.
Central finished with 18 points off 21 turnovers by the Cougars and 14 second-chance points. The Cougars had nine points off turnovers and eight second-chance points.