Ed Petruska-Contributing Writer-Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — An ultra strong finish by the Central Arizona College women's basketball team erased most of the sting caused by erratic play during much of Saturday's game against Chandler-Gilbert.
The fifth-ranked Vaqueras outscored the Coyotes 30-14 in the fourth quarter and came away with an 88-60 victory at the George Young Activity Center. CAC overcame eight first-quarter turnovers and 7-for-26 shooting in the second period.
The Vaqueras (12-3, 7-0 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) made 14 of 15 free throws and went 7 for 17 from the floor in the final quarter. Chandler-Gilbert (8-6, 4-3 ACCAC) committed 15 turnovers in the fourth (on 25 possessions), which Central converted into 12 points.
"We were able to make some adjustments and spread the floor a little bit," CAC coach Denise Cardenas said. "They were fouling a lot, and we made our free throws."
The Vaqueras accomplished their main goal by staying undefeated in conference play.
"We have a target on our backs, and every single team is going to come at us hard," Cardenas said. "We need to win every game possible to be in a good position for the playoffs, but there are no guarantees. Nobody's safe."
Ayanna Clark led the Vaqueras with 31 points, scoring 15 in the first half and 16 in the second. The total was a season best for the 6-foot-3 sophomore.
Makayla Pippin, a three-time ACCAC Division I player of the week, scored all of her 17 points in the second half after sitting out the opening two periods. Denali Hughes provided 12 points for Central, which shot 39 percent from the field (31 of 79 overall, 4 for 19 on 3-pointers) and went 22 for 30 from the line.
The Vaqueras finished with 24 points off 34 turnovers by the Coyotes and had a 25-13 advantage in second-chance points.
Mikaila Kayaani-Lee scored 20 points for Chandler-Gilbert, followed by Grayce Claw and Bella Thibaudeau with 10 apiece. The Coyotes shot 43 percent going, going 25 of 58 overall and 8 for 17 on 3-pointers. They attempted just four free throws (none in the second half), making two.
CAC led 21-15 after one quarter, 38-30 at halftime and 58-46 after three.
Chandler-Gilbert hung tough for much of the first half, taking a 28-26 lead on Thibaudeau's second-chance basket with 5:27 left in the second quarter. Clark's basket with 4:01 remaining snapped a 30-30 tie and put the Vaqueras ahead to stay.
Central led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, going up 58-43 when Imani Harris made two free throws to cap a 12-0 run.
Ahead 65-52, the Vaqueras outscored the Coyotes 18-2 during a 3:15 stretch of the final period to turn the game into a rout. Chandler-Gilbert committed turnovers on eight consecutive possessions during that span.