The traditional thing to do is shake hands at midcourt following a game, but Pima Community College and Mesa Community College — two heated rivals — took a different approach last night at the West Campus Aztec Gymnasium.
Some coaches and players shook hands before the game in order to avoid issues — as Pima assistant Joe Hickle tweeted — following the outcome, which was a 100-68 rout by Pima, extending the Aztecs’ winning streak to eight games.
Plenty of jawing took place between players throughout. One Mesa coach told a ref, “You better do something or it’s going to get out of hand fast.”
Mesa does not shake hands with Pima after the Aztecs rout the Thunderbirds 100-68. Play was chippy and these programs don't like each other. pic.twitter.com/uzER0aRCwo
Hand shake before game. So there would be no issues after.
Pima coaches and players still waited after the game to shake hands with Mesa’s players and coaches, but they watched the Thunderbirds depart to their locker room instead.
Pima coach Brian Peabody voiced his displeasure of Mesa’s actions.
When asked if he wanted to comment on what happened after the game, Peabody said, “Yeah, definitely. It’s just bush league.”
“They’ve been that way ever since I’ve been here,” said Peabody, who was hired by Pima before the 2013-14 season. “We prepare our kids. We say, ‘Hey, you’re going to get guys talking trash to you. They’re going to do things disrespectful. And just handle it the right way.’ Which they did. I’m really proud of my guys.
“They didn’t come down to that level. They played the Pima Way. Acted the Pima Way, acted the right way. So I’m really happy with the way we acted during the game and after the game.”
Catalina Foothills grad Nik Nehls, the son of former Arizona player Joe Nehls who played with Pima as a freshman last year, is now on Mesa’s roster. He did not exchange pleasantries after the game as well.
He finished with two points and four rebounds in 27 minutes.
Hopefully, the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference will do some mediating between the programs from now until Feb. 13. That’s when Pima travels to Mesa in the rematch.
In yesterday’s game, the 12th-ranked Aztecs (12-3, 5-2 in ACCAC) made 18 shots from 3-point range. They made more from beyond the arc than from within, converting 16 two-point baskets.
Pima went on a 17-0 run in the first half to take a 54-30 lead over Mesa (7-7, 3-4). The Aztecs led 56-33 at halftime behind going 12 of 22 from beyond the arc. They went 6 of 14 in the second half.
The Thunderbirds opened the second half outscoring Pima 17-7 to close the gap to 63-50 but the Aztecs responded (after Peabody called a timeout) with an 18-8 stretch to make it 81-58.
“My timeout was, ‘Hey, do what we did in the first half,'” Peabody said. “In that little stretch there, it was the first guy who got it, shot it, and that’s not how we play.
“We played the Pima Way. We just keep preaching, ‘Pima Way, Pima Way.’ We’ve led the country in assists two years in a row. That’s what we do.”
The Aztecs finished with 19 assists on their 34 field goals made. Former Tucson High standout Jordan Robinson and Rashad Smith (formerly of Chandler Hamilton) each had five assists to lead the Aztecs.
Robinson also scored 12 points and had six rebounds.
Smith had a game-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and had five rebounds and two steals.
When asked what his interpretation of the “Pima Way”, Smith said, “Pima Way is just like playing together. Not trying to do what you want to do but what can we do as a team together.”
Sophomore forward Kennedy Koehler of Henderson (Nev.) Coronado posted his 11th double with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Salpointe grad Robert Wilson had 16 points, nine rebounds and a blocked shot.
Koehler went 7 of 12 from the field and 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
“Team effort, everyone’s playing hard,” Koehler said. “We’re sharing the ball a lot better, we’re running everything really crisp. We’re playing a lot better.”
Sophomore guard Abram Carrasco, a Cholla grad, had 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go along with six rebounds.
The Aztecs next play Wednesday when they host South Mountain Community College. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Pima guard Davonte Eason (another Tucson High grad) turned his ankle in the first half last night and did not play the remainder of the game. Peabody said Eason is questionable for the game against South Mountain noting that he will probably not practice until then and will be a game-time decision.