Pima Community College overcame a 13-point halftime deficit, rallying to take as much as a five-point lead in the second half, but Triton College (Ill.) forged ahead at the end to win 89-85 in the NJCAA national title game Saturday night at Danville, Ill.
The No. 2-seeded Aztecs capped a historic 31-5 season by setting records in 3-pointers made (66) and an average of 99.5 points per game in their four-game run in the national tournament.
Sophomore guard Alize Travis had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Pima against Triton.
Triton, the No. 1 seed, won its first national title in program history. The Trojans finished 33-4.
Travis was selected to the NJCAA Division II All-Tournament team along with Cienega grads Isaiah Murphy and Keven Biggs.
Biggs and Murphy each finished with 16 points against Triton. They like Travis played in their final game with the Aztecs.
The tournament MVP was Triton guard Deonta Terrell, who had 15 points and four assists.
“I knew they are a No. 2 team for a reason,” Terrell told WRRG radio station of Pima in a postgame interview. “They were knocking down 3’s and we only won by four.”
Triton coach Steve Christiansen said of the Aztecs to WRRG: “Pima deserves a lot of credit. We knew we would have to play exceptional to win. You don’t win 31 games like they did without having a heart of a champion themselves.”
Pima coach Brian Peabody was pleased by how his team fought back but admitted the Aztecs “ran out of gas.”
After trailing 39-26 at halftime, Pima outscored Triton 18-5 in the first five minutes of the second half to tie the game at 44. The game was close until Triton converted layups on consecutive steals to take a 75-71 lead with 3:00 left.
The Trojans eventually built the lead to 79-71 and managed to stay at least two possessions ahead until the end.
“We dug ourselves a big hole at halftime and we fought like crazy to get back into it,” Peabody said. “We ran out of gas. I’m just extremely proud of our guys to come back and fight the way they did.”