Pima Community College sports

No. 10 Pima overcomes trailing 13-0 to beat Arizona Western 96-90 behind hot shooting

Salpointe grad Dillan Baker led Pima with 23 points in its 96-90 win over Arizona Western (Stephanie van Latum/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

Less than 2 minutes elapsed by the time Pima coach Brian Peabody called his fourth timeout Wednesday night in the anticipated game with Arizona Western at the West Gym.

By that point, the Matadors, an NJCAA Division I team with three prospects who have ties with NCAA Division I programs, scored the first 11 points of the game.

They scored another basket to lead 13-0. Peabody refrained from calling his last timeout.

On his four timeouts in succession to start a game, Peabody said, “I’ve been known to do that occasionally. The magnitude of the game, how big it was, I didn’t want it to get away from us. I was afraid we might not score in the first half.”

Oh, they scored.

Four players produced at least 19 points in the 96-90 victory in front of a near-capacity gym — Salpointe grad Dillan Baker with 23, Sabino alum Cesar Saenz 21, Jamison Kay 20 and Traivar Jackson 19.

What Peabody did was Coach of the Year material because the Aztecs snapped out of being stuck like they were in a telephone booth and emerging from it like Superman.

Their energy fueled their offensive execution and shooting from the field despite missing their best perimeter shooter — Mike Pope, who is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury.

The Aztecs shot 63.6 percent from the field as a team, including 13 of 19 from beyond the arc, led by Kay’s 6-of-6 performance.

Kay, a freshman, hails from where Arizona Western is located — Yuma — as a graduate of Gila Ridge High School.

“We had to claw back,” Kay said of the early 13-0 deficit. “We settled down and got into our offense and we started clicking.

“It was really our crowd. The crowd got into it. We got into it. We feed off the crowd and everybody hits shots.”

Pima (15-1, 7-1 ACCAC) outscored Arizona Western 31-12 over the 11 minutes after Peabody’s timeout spree to take a 31-25 lead with 6:10 left in the first half on Saenz’s 3-pointer.

The ability to make that kind of rally against Arizona Western was impressive with the Matadors now 13-3 and 6-2 in the ACCAC and having the likes of St. John’s signee Yaxel Lendeborg, a 6-foot-9 and 230-pound forward who finished with 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting (most of them dunks or shots inside).

Arizona Western also has former Division I players Marko Milivojevic (Maryland-Eastern Shore) who is 6-foot-11 and 230 pounds and guard Isaiah Amato (Eastern Washington).

“Just play the ‘Pima Way,'” is how Peabody defined the Aztecs’ poise to come back strong considering the circumstances. “Our whole way is trusting each other — sharing the basketball, getting it side to side.

“In the first few minutes, it never got side to side. The first guy who got it, shot it. And that’s not how we play. We lead the country in assists and scoring. We just like the ball to move. It wasn’t moving and it was stuck on one side.”

The Aztecs continue to lead the NJCAA Division II at 106.8 points per game. They are now No. 2 in assists averaging 24.6 after producing 21 against Arizona Western.

Lendeborg scored seven of Arizona Western’s nine points in one stretch, with two baskets on dunks, to help the Matadors take a 72-69 lead with 7:15 left.

The Aztecs then got a 3-pointer from Kay and a bank shot from Jackson to put them ahead to stay at 74-72 with 5:15 remaining. The baskets sparked a 12-1 run, extending Pima’s lead to 81-73 with 3:27 left.

Pima took its biggest lead at 89-79 after Baker hit a 3-pointer with 1:14 left. The snapshot of the game was Baker at 6-foot-5 making the shot over the 6-11 Milivojevic, who shook his head in disbelief as he ran downcourt.

After Arizona Western managed to cut the lead to 90-86 with 30 seconds left, Baker preserved the margin down the stretch, making all four of his free throw attempts. Jackson capped the victory with a breakaway windmill dunk in the waning seconds.

Baker said of quickly turning around the early 13-0 deficit, “After that, we came out and played like we usually play — shooting high percentages and that’s what we work on. This a great wakeup game for us (after struggling but winning in games against South Mountain and Mesa without Pope).

“It really shocked us. We ended up fighting through the adversity.”

Baker, Saenz and Jaylen Alexander each had five assists.

Jackson led the Aztecs with eight rebounds and three steals and Saenz two.

Arizona Western also shot well from the field at 57.6 percent, prompting Peabody to say (perhaps jokingly) that he may try a zone defense.

“We better score because we can’t guard anybody,” he said. “So it’s a good thing we can shoot.”

The Aztecs are ranked No. 10 among NJCAA Division II schools. Arizona Western is unranked as a Division I team. Although the schools are in different divisions, they play in the same conference (ACCAC).

Pima next plays Glendale (7-8, 2-6) on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the West Gym.


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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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