NOTE: This story contains information provided by the Pima Community College sports information office.
Pima Community College’s men’s hoops team is one game away from the first national title in program history.
The No. 2 seed Aztecs (31-4) defeated Delta College (Mich.) 102-94 Friday night in a semifinal game of the NJCAA Basketball Division II championships at Danville (Ill.) Area Community College.
“This is an unbelievable feeling. We’ve been working so hard all season and we’ve been talking about this. For it to finally be here is a dream come true,” sophomore guard Isaiah Murphy said. “Delta is a hard working team and they play hard. We had to come out and fight for this one. We had to stay poised the whole game.”
The top-seeded Triton Trojans (32-4) will face Pima in the championship game Saturday night at 5:30 p.m., Tucson time. They defeated the Southwestern Community College Spartans 85-67.
Pima has scored at least 102 points in each of its three wins in the tournament, which started Tuesday.
In Friday’s game, after seeing their lead cut in half to 82-79, the Aztecs turned to freshman Abram Carrasco (a Cholla High School grad), who hit a 3-pointer to get the lead to 85-79 with 4:20 left.
The Pioneers cut the lead again to 85-83 but Murphy (Cienega) scored on a drive to the basket and Carrasco drained another 3-pointer to make it 90-83 with 3:00 left.
Carrasco hit a pair of free throws and sophomore Justin Bessard scored under the basket to make it 94-85 with 2:10 remaining.
With Pima leading 95-89, sophomore Alize Travis made 5 of 6 free throws in 20 seconds and grabbed three straight defensive rebounds to help seal it.
The Aztecs trailed early but took their first lead at 9-7 and led for the final 16:52 of the first half. The Aztecs led by as many as 10 points on two occasions. They scored the final six points of the first half to take a 50-43 lead at the break.
Travis fell short of a triple-double as he finished with 21 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. He went 10 for 14 from the foul line. Murphy scored 20 points and went 3 for 6 from 3-point range and 9 for 12 from the free throw line. Sophomore Ilunga Moise finished with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting and eight rebounds.
The bench came through again for the Aztecs as it scored 35 points. Freshman Jeremiah Bailey led the way with 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting. He also had eight rebounds and two steals.
Carrasco scored nine points in two and half minutes and finished the game with 15 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Freshman Robert Wilson (Salpointe Catholic) had nine rebounds.
“This is a tight-knit group. They love each other and I’m so happy for them,” Pima coach Brian Peabody said. “It was a bad matchup for us. They went small and took our bigger guys off the dribble. There were a lot of fouls both ways. I’m taking any win at this point in time.
“When we brought Bram (Carrasco) in, I thought he was a big boost off the bench, hit a couple big three’s for us. He played really well and handled the ball.”
The Aztecs out-rebounded the Pioneers 50-39 and were 37 for 52 from the foul line. There were 82 free throws shot in the game between the two teams.
Triton, which is on an eight-game winning streak, had five scorers in double figures in its win over Southwestern. The leading scorer was sophomore guard Corey Shepherd, who had 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Shepherd was averaging only 6.5 points a game before Friday night.
The Trojans’ top scorer is sophomore guard Deonta Terrell, who played at Farragut High School in Chicago, the same school that produced Arizona Pac-12 Hall of Honor inductee Michael Wright. Terrell averages 16.3 points a game.