Pima had trouble making shots and rebounding while Illinois Central quicksilver guard Derria Edwards did her best Aari McDonald impersonation in the Aztecs’ 77-67 loss Tuesday night in the first round of the NJCAA Division II tournament at Hickory, N.C.
Pima (3-4) goes to the consolation bracket, where the best it can finish is seventh place. The Aztecs play North Platte (Neb.) on Thursday on 11 a.m.
The Aztecs shot 39.7 percent from the field, including 7 of 25 from 3-point range, and Illinois Central outrebounded Todd Holthaus’ team 52-26. The Cougars (19-3) had almost as many offensive rebounds (19) as Pima had overall.
The rebounding discrepancy made up for Illinois Central’s 31 turnovers. Pima also turned the ball over 18 times.
On two occasions in the second half, Edwards, a 5-foot-4 speedster, hit multiple 3-pointers that thwarted Pima’s comeback attempt.
Edwards made three straight 3-pointers to open the second half to increase Illinois Central’s lead to 50-33 with 7:50 remaining in the third quarter.
After Pima rallied to cut the lead to 63-61 with 5:31 remaining in the game, Edwards made 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, the second went in when she was fouled by Tayla Nez with 4:21 left.
Edwards completed the 4-point play to give Illinois Central a 72-61 lead.
Edwards finished with 22 points while making 6 of 8 from 3-point range. She also had three steals.
Pima took one last gasp, cutting the lead to 72-65 with 3:26 left on a Fama Thiam jumper, but the Aztecs could not get closer.
Thiam, who is bound for New Mexico State, led Pima with 18 points but struggled from the field making 8 of 18 shots, including 2 of 7 from beyond the arc. She had six rebounds and four steals.
Leading scorer Sierra Mich’l, who averaged 14.2 points entering the game, finished with only four because she was beset by foul trouble throughout. The NAU signee went 1 of 8 from the field before fouling out with 2:18 remaining.
Freshman guard Luisayde Chavez of Rio Rico had six steals and nine points but she could not convert any of her seven 3-point attempts.
Palo Verde graduate Aaliyah Ortiz produced her seven points and five assists in the second half.
The Aztecs have played only seven games because their season was delayed more than four months to March 16 because of COVID-19 protocols.
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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.