Clark, Pippin lead No. 5 Vaqueras to blowout win over Cougars
By BRIAN WRIGHT Staff Writer Dec 11, 2019
SIGNAL PEAK — It didn't take long for the No. 5 women's basketball team in the country to assert its dominance Wednesday.
Central Arizona College (10-1, 6-0 ACCAC), ranked No. 5 in the NJCAA poll, raced to a 9-0 lead and led by 20 after the first quarter en route to a 93-65 win over South Mountain (7-3, 3-3).
After the first quarter, reigning ACCAC Division I Player of the Year Ayanna Clark had 16 points, more than the entire South Mountain team. Her teammate Mikayla Pippin scored 15, which equaled the Cougars total output, as the Vaqueras led 35-15.
CAC coach Denise Cardenas was pleased with the energy her team displayed during the fast start, but there were some mistakes she had her eye on as well.
"We turned the ball over way too many times tonight," she said. "I think we let fatigue get the best of us when it came to taking care of the ball. I think we looked at the scoreboard a little too much tonight, and we didn't need to do that ... overall I was pleased, we had some good minutes, but we need to do a lot better job of consistency."
The level of play dipped a little for the Vaqueras in the second quarter, as they outscored the Cougars 21-17 for a 46-32 halftime lead. But after a slow start to the third quarter, they turned it up again to extend their lead to 84-47 heading into the fourth quarter.
Pippin had 18 of her game-high 32 points in the first half, and Clark finished with 31 in a dominant performance from the CAC sophomore duo.
It was the third time in the last five games Pippin had more than 30 points, as she hit five 3-pointers and raised her scoring average to 18.5 points per game. She averaged 14.7 points in 27 games as a freshman.
"Mikayla plays in a second gear," Cardenas said. "Mikayla plays really hard, and she's come a long way in developing an outside shot. The reason I think she stands out more this year is because she developed that outside shot ... because she's the same presence in the paint, but now she can hit it from the outside."
The Cougars never got in a rhythm, and the final score was a little closer only because Cardenas pulled all the Vaqueras starters with a little less than five minutes remaining. Prima Chellis led South Mountain with 17 points, and Halle Price finished with 14.
CAC had an uncharacteristic season a year ago, posting a 22-9 record but losing in the Division I Region 1 title game to Cochise College and finishing outside the Top 20.
Cardenas said the team is "reinventing" its tradition. She said CAC isn't necessarily "back" because the program never went away in the first place, but this year's team is making its presence felt.
"It's funny because I've been on every dip of the roller coaster in this program," she said. "And this is definitely one of the top teams since I've been here, absolutely."