The No. 16 Pima College men’s basketball team played its second game with all of its starters on the court, and it clearly showed for the sharp-shooting team.
After coming off of two consecutive losses on Jan. 18 and 21 , in which the Aztecs only averaged 69 points, Pima (18-3, 10-3 in ACCAC) answered with consecutive wins with an average score of 98.5.
The Aztecs handily dismantled the Yavapai Roughriders (6-15, 3-10) by a 91-69 score at the West Campus Aztec Gymnasium on Saturday.
“Coach (Brian) Peabody just made it apparent that we werent playing the Pima way, as he calls it, in those two games,” freshman guard Dillan Baker (Salpointe Catholic grad) said. “Every great team needs to struggle to go through adversity, but we just kept grinding, kept getting in the gym, worked on ball movement and it translated.”
The Pima Aztecs could only muster a field-goal percentage of 46.1 and a 3-point percentage 29.9 in their consecutive losses to Chandler-Gilbert CC and Phoenix College last week.
The difference between Pima a week ago and now is astounding. With the team fully healthy and at its best, shooting-wise, the Aztecs are shooting 54.9 percent from the field and 51.7 percent from 3-point range.
Pima continues to be No. 2 nationally among NJCAA Division II teams in scoring (101.7 points a game) and assists (24.1).
Freshman guard Mike Pope, who Peabody puts among the elite shooters he has coached, returned last week from a separated shoulder after being out for six games.
“It really helps a lot (having all starters back),” Baker said. “With Mike Pope out, we were really restricted. Just having our original five really benefits us.”
Against Yavapai, the Aztecs shot an impressive 53.3 percent from beyond the arc (16-for-30). Overall, Pima was 35-for-61 from the field.
Pima also finished with 32 assists compared to Yavapai’s 12.
Pima took an early 27-12 lead with nine minutes remaining in the first half and never lost it from there.
Leading the team in scoring was Baker with 28 points to go along with his seven rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Baker has been a shooting nightmare for his opponents, averaging 16.4 points per game on 25 minutes played with a field-goal percentage of 54.2 percent. He has played in all 20 games so far as a freshman.
Baker was a highly talented prospect while playing at Salpointe. His senior year, he averaged 14.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game under coach Eric Castillo.
Baker was a crucial piece to the Lancers’ 26-3 season on their way to a top seed in the AIA playoffs, where they took runner-up in the 4A conference for the 2021-22 season.
Three other Aztec players scored in double digits, including Pope, who scored 17 points while shooting 6-for-9 from the field and 5-for-8 from behind the 3-point line.
Pope also had five assists and two rebounds.
Sophomore Traivar Jackson had 14 points to go along with his nine assists, four rebounds and four blocks.
Freshman Jaylen Alexander scored 11 points with nine rebounds and four assists.
Pima will go on a three-game road trip for its next games — its first one being this Wednesday at Scottsdale Community College.