Pima men get revenge on Eastern Arizona ahead of regional tournament

Pima’s Jalen Johnson (Pima photo)

Strong performances by Travair Jackson, Iturry Kitt and Walden Grove graduate Daniel Moody are exactly what the Pima College men’s basketball team needed to surge past Eastern Arizona for a 112-86 victory at the Pima West Gym on Tuesday.

The last time these two teams played was Jan. 15 in Thatcher and Pima lost that game 84-83.

“I think we should’ve played better in the first half,” Pima coach Brian Peabody said. “Obviously, we struggled a little bit in the second half. We lost by one down there, which is a game that I think we should’ve won. It kind of haunted us and we were ready to play tonight.”

The Aztecs (17-12) jumped to a 26-12 lead in the first half, following a fast break slam dunk by Moody. Eastern Arizona then took a timeout with 13:11 to go.

Pima added to that lead going on a 14-0 run to lead 40-12 with 9:28 left in the half. The Aztecs ended the first half with their largest lead of the night, 74-35.

Moody had a huge first half — 18 points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal. Kitt and Jackson both entered the break with 14 points. Kitt added four assists to his first-half statistics and Jackson added six rebounds.

Pima shot 60.9 percent from the field on 46 shots attempted compared to Eastern Arizona’s 35 percent on 40 shots attempted. Three-pointers were non existent for Eastern Arizona as it went 0 for 11 in the first half. Pima shot 52.6 percent on 19 threes attempted.

The Aztecs also outrebounded the Gila Monsters 31-17.

“That was probably the best defensive half that we’ve played, one,” Peabody said. “Two, we just had a boatload of assists. I think we had 25 baskets (in the first half) and 20 of them were from passes.”

Pima’s dominance continued in the second half. On their first possession, guard Pierce Sterling hit a 3-point shot to bring the lead up 74-35.

Eastern Arizona took advantage of a slight shooting slump following an Aztec timeout with 16:30 left in the game. Down 77-48, the Gila Monsters outscored Pima 21-13 to shorten the Aztecs’ lead to 90-69.

The 21-point deficit was as close as Eastern Arizona would get.

Pima finished with a field-goal percentage of 50.6 percent as Eastern Arizona finished shooting 44 percent.

Kitt finished the game with a team high 28 points, making 6 of 8 shots from 3-point range and he had four assists.

“It was all like a confidence thing, ” Kitt said of his shooting. “I shoot these shots on a regular basis when we’re playing pickup, so you gotta transport that. Coach is always talking about ‘Shoot the open shot. Just feel it, it’s a rhythm. You gotta let it go.'”

Moody had 22 points. nine rebounds, four assists and one steal.

Jackson led the team in rebounds with 13. He also had 16 points and two blocks. Guard Griffin Effenberger came off the bench and had 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and one steal.

Guard Chrishon Dixon led in assists with nine. Dixon added six points, eight rebounds and one steal.

The Aztecs’ next game will be in the NJCAA Region I, Division II tournament as the No. 4 seed. Their next game is scheduled for March 1. A time and place is yet to be determined.

Until then, Kitt knows he and his team must continue to keep working.

“Hard work,” Kitt said. “Keep grinding. Play the Pima way.”

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