Aztec women rally but fall short by 14 in NJCAA nat'l quarterfinals, won't go to final four
Pima basketball drops junior college tourney game to No. 2 seed CCBC-Essex, 89-75
The Pima Community College women’s basketball team (26-8) battled with the Community College of Baltimore County on Wednesday for a chance to go to the NJCAA Division II tournament final four.
The No. 7-seeded Aztecs fell behind in the third quarter and battled in the fourth quarter, but fell 89-75 in the end to the No. 2-seeded Knights. The Aztecs move into the fifth-place consolation bracket where they will play No. 6 Bryant & Stratton College (WI) on Thursday at 3 p.m. (12 p.m. Tucson time).
The Aztecs trailed 43-40 but the Knights closed out the third quarter on a 25-8 run in the final 5:50, putting Pima down 68-48 entering the fourth. CCBC-Essex outscored the Aztecs 37-17 for the quarter.
The Aztecs started off the fourth quarter with a three-pointer from sophomore Luisa Chavez (Rio Rico HS) and Pima slowly chipped away. Sophomore Angel Addleman (Palo Verde HS) scored to make it 72-55 forcing the Knights to call timeout at the 7:19 mark. Sophomore Matehya Aberle (Holbrook HS) and Addleman scored on back-to-back possessions to make it 72-59 and the Knights called another timeout with 6:10 remaining. Chavez hit a three-pointer to cap off a 16-5 run as Pima closed it to single digits at 73-64 with 4:59 left on the clock.
The teams traded baskets with Pima’s coming from sophomore Torrance Begay (Page HS) to again make it a nine-point deficit at 75-66. The Knights scored the next five points to put it at 80-66 but the Aztecs responded with free throws from Aberle and Chavez to put the score at 80-70 with 2:23 left.
The Knight scored five straight points again to make it 85-70 with 1:02 left. Freshman Taina Lee hit a three-pointer to make it 85-73 but the Aztecs couldn’t get any closer as CCBC-Essex went to the foul line to score its final points.
“The effort was amazing tonight for sure. We play really good together as a team and stick together always; through ups and downs,” Chavez said. “We knew it was going to be a hard game. They’re (CCBC-Essex) a really good team. We were at the same score at halftime (31-31) so we were doing our job.
“Every time we’re down, we’re not a crack team. We don’t get mad at each other. We know we can push it through, we know we could cut it down. We’ve always been a team that knows how to fight back and there was never nothing wrong. We just got to keep it going and see where it takes us.”
The Aztecs trailed in the early minutes but put together a 10-0 run to take a 16-8 lead in the first quarter as sophomore Aiona Johnson hit two 3-pointers as part of the run. She also hit from downtown to open the second quarter to put Pima up 21-14. The Aztecs matched their biggest lead on Aberle’s basket to make it 25-17 with 6:54 left in the half. The Knights went on an 8-0 run to tie it at 25-25 as the teams traded points to end the second quarter. Chavez hit a jumper to tie the game at 31-31 at the break.
“The first 20 minutes was probably some of the proudest basketball I’ve had all year in terms of going into halftime, tied with the No. 2 team in the country, foul trouble all over the place, and people just kept stepping up,” Pima women’s basketball coach Todd Holthaus said. “The third quarter got away from us but they kind of looked at each other and said, ‘this is not how we’re going to end,’ and they fought back in the fourth and made it a game. I’m just real proud of them.”
Chavez finished with a game-high 21 points on 7 for 13 shooting as she posted eight rebounds and four assists.
Aberle added a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds, along with three assists, three blocks and two steals.
Addleman contributed with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. Johnson went 3 for 5 from three-point range and finished with nine points.
The Aztecs will play No. 6 seed Bryant & Stratton College in the fifth place consolation bracket on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m. Tucson time. Chavez talked about the quick turnaround playing for the third straight day.
“We talk it out. We know we want to finish our season together so our goal right now is to play till Saturday,” Chavez said. “We just got to move on and win tomorrow; and we want to finish strong.”
Holthaus also challenged his team in the locker room after the game.
“I told them, ‘look I don’t want this ride to be over. We can still go out a winner.’ We have to turn around quick and we got to be back here tomorrow afternoon ready to go. I have no doubt with this group especially that we’ll be ready to go.”