Pima Community College sports

Pima’s Dominique Acosta & Jordan Joe resourceful after injury to starter Matehya Aberle

Jordan Joe scored 11 points off the bench in Pima’s 74-43 win over Phoenix College on Wednesday night (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The scene at Pima’s West Gym was unsettling on Jan. 14 shortly after the game started with Glendale.

Matehya Aberle landed awkwardly near the basket without the ability to brace her fall and the back of her head impacted the court, causing her to become unconscious.

Emergency first-responders were summoned and Aberle was taken on a cart to an ambulance outside of the gym.

“When that happened, we were all in shock,” freshman forward Dominique Acosta said. “We were really worried about her from the beginning. We just wanted that first sign of her getting up and being good.

“We got updates from our trainers. Thanks to them, she recovered fast. She’s recovering pretty fast right now. We’re just happy that she’s almost there to start playing with us again.”

One of Aberle’s spinal-cord discs near the base of her neck became dislodged by the fall and she suffered a concussion.

On Wednesday, in Pima’s first game back to the West Gym since that incident, Aberle, a sophomore power forward, was on the bench in good spirits cheering on her team in its 74-43 win over Phoenix College.

“I’m doing okay,” she said after the game. “I’m getting some treatment and rehabilitating. It looks like I can be cleared to play again next Wednesday.”

The 12th-ranked Aztecs (16-4, 9-3 ACCAC) are scheduled to play at Scottsdale on that night.

Pima coach Todd Holthaus is also optimistic about Aberle returning soon.

“We obviously don’t want to rush her back,” he said. “We’ll give her some time. It’s good to know she will be coming back soon.”

Aberle, a niece of former Arizona basketball player Cliff Johns, was coming off a 26-point, 14-rebound performance in a victory over Arizona Western in the previous game.

She is second on the team in scoring (10.3 points a game) and is averaging 6.6 rebounds a game.

With Aberle out, Acosta, a former standout at Nogales, is starting in her place and freshman Jordan Joe is playing additional minutes.

Their contributions helped Pima dominate Phoenix College (2-16, 0-12) on Wednesday night.

Acosta had 10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots and Joe finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting the field, including a 3-pointer.

“For them to get minutes is huge because when Matehya comes back, now we have depth,” Holthaus said. “That way, we don’t have to worry about foul trouble. You know you can play aggressive and if you do get in foul trouble, you have people who can come in and play.”

Acosta first came to Pima to compete in track but she never participated in a meet. Her focus shifted to Holthaus’ program to return to more of a “family” atmosphere with the players competing together.

“Everyone hangs out with everyone,” she said. “We’re all proud of each other in what we do.”

Joe chose her path to play basketball rather than volleyball, although she excelled in both sports at Gallup (N.M.) High School. She has played basketball since she was 6 years old.

Her mother is Elvina Clark, who was part of Dave Rubio’s volleyball program at Arizona in the early stages of his coaching career with the Wildcats, after her stellar career at Monument Valley High School. Jordan’s father Randall Joe was a standout basketball player at Window Rock High School. The family is from the Navajo Nation.

Clark was a 5-foot-6 defensive specialist for Rubio who earned a scholarship after first being a walk-on.

“We’ll have anywhere from 10 to 20 players come out every year trying to walk on and very few prove they can help the team,” Rubio told the Arizona Daily Wildcat in a 1999 article. “Elvina was one of those players who had good instincts, was focused and played intense volleyball. I was impressed. I figured if she could endure our conditioning program, we’d have a spot for her.”

Rubio also said at the time that Clark was unique because he had not come across Native American Division I volleyball players.

“I can only imagine the pressure she is under having to carry the weight of the two cultures on her shoulders,” Rubio said.

Jordan said she learned her basketball skills from her dad and she credits her mom for her helping her with the mental part of the game.

“She played basketball when she was young but she’s more volleyball,” Jordan said of her mom. “She does help me by pushing me by saying, ‘You have to do your best. It might be hard. It might be a struggle but push through it.’

“She taught me a lot — sportsmanship, you’ve gotta be loud, you’ve gotta be a team — all that. They’re different sports but they have the same concepts.”

Pima next plays Saturday at Aztec Gym against Yavapai (7-11, 4-8) at 4 p.m. The Aztecs traveled to Prescott on Dec. 3 and beat Yavapai 83-73.


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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