This defines consistency: Pima coach Todd Holthaus is averaging an appearance in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament once every other year in his 14-year career with the Aztecs.
Pima reached the national tournament for the seventh time in his tenure with Friday’s dominating 79-51 win over Dallas College-Mountain View in the Southwest District Championship game at Dallas.
The national tournament is scheduled from April 20-24 at Hickory, N.C.
“It’s a credit to a lot of things, probably assistant coaches, recruiting, type of kids we get, the effort our kids give,” Holthaus said of his impressive rate of going to the national tournament. “It’s a junior college, so you’re essentially swapping out half your team every year (because of two-year eligibilities).
“For us to stay that consistent, it comes from a lot of different areas. The fact that we’re doing something right, and being consistent, I am so proud of that.”
We’re going to NATIONALS!!! 2020-2021 District Champs! pic.twitter.com/oF64NPT2r0
— Pima Women’s Basketball (@PimaWBB) April 10, 2021
Holthaus is trying to get that elusive national title. He came close in 2010-11 with a runner-up finish. His 2008-09 and 2015-16 teams finished third.
Pima will challenge for a national championship despite playing only six games this season.
The Aztecs (3-3) had their season delayed for more than four months, until March 16, because of COVID-19 protocol. The NJCAA granted the Aztecs a bid for the Southwest District title game because they are the only Arizona college at the Division II level that did not have its season canceled.
“There’s times when we looked really good (against Mountain View) — we showed glimpses of what we’re capable of,” Holthaus said. “And then there were other times we looked a little clunky, but you know what, they’re out there playing and that’s what’s most important.”
Sierra Mich’l led Pima with 17 points and 12 rebounds while Tanque Verde High School graduate Nikya Orange had 12 points and 17 rebounds (including eight on the offensive end).
“There was a lot of domination in the paint and staying on the boards,” Holthaus said. “We were on the road in somebody else’s gym but we stayed at it. We weren’t pretty a lot of times but we were effective.
“Our depth was big because when we started getting people with two fouls in the first half we have enough confidence with the kids on the bench that we can just keep coming.”
Mackenzie Kinsel contributed 12 points for the Aztecs, who return to Tucson tomorrow and depart for North Carolina on April 17.
Pima pulled away for good from Mountain View with a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter with Orange and Rio Rico product Luisayde Chavez combining to score 11 points in the period.
Pima led throughout and gradually built its lead to 58-43 by halftime behind Mich’l’s 13 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots at that time.
The Aztecs increased their lead to 49-28 late in the third quarter before Mountain View cut the margin to 14 points a couple of times in the fourth quarter.
De’Von Sherrod was Mountain View’s lone scorer in double figures with 22 points. She shot 4-of-19 from the field but made 14 of 16 from the free throw line.
Mountain View shot only 23.3 percent from the field and was 2 of 11 from beyond the arc.
“I wish we would have more games under our belt just so we could have a better feel for what we’re capable of,” Holthaus said. “But at the same time, I think we have a lot of ways we can hurt you so I can live with that.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.