The No. 17 Pima College men’s basketball team put on a shooting clinic in its final home game of the regular season, beating Central Arizona with a high field-goal percentage in its 115-73 victory over the Vaqueros at the Pima West Aztec gymnasium on Saturday.
The last time Pima played Central Arizona, the Vaqueros took the 74-68 victory on Jan. 21 in Coolidge.
“We have all of our pieces together,” coach Brian Peabody said of the difference between the two meetings. “We were without three starters. We didn’t play very hard. We’re not making excuses but since we got all of our guys together, we’re pretty hard to beat.”
The Aztecs (23-6, 15-6 in ACCAC) are tied with No. 10 Scottsdale (23-6, 15-6) for the No.1 seed in the NJCAA Region I, Division II tournament.
The Aztecs are trying to achieve homecourt advantage for the tournament. They are 18-1 at the Aztec West Gym.
Pima and Scottsdale split their regular-season meetings. Both teams have games against Division I schools to close the regular season Tuesday.
The Aztecs play at Eastern Arizona (21-8, 14-7) on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. while Scottsdale hosts first-place Cochise (27-2, 21-0).
If both teams win Tuesday, Scottsdale would earn the No. 1 seed because it would have split with Cochise, while Pima lost both games against the Apaches.
If both teams lose Tuesday, Pima would earn the tie-breaker and No. 1 seed in the regional tournament because of how both teams fared against others in the standings. The comparison would go all the way to the ninth-place team — South Mountain. Pima swept the Cougars and Scottsdale split with them.
Pima jumped to a 9-2 in the first three minutes of the game Saturday against Central Arizona. Freshman Jaylen Alexander scored four of those nine points.
Pima took its first double-digit lead after a Traivar Jackson 3-point shot with 14:42 left in the half. Pima was 4-for-4 in 3-point shots at that point.
Pima guard Dillan Baker (Salpointe grad) nailed two consecutive 3-pointers to put the Aztecs up 36-18 with 10:51 to play in the first half before a Vaqueros timeout.
Pima continued to build its lead up in the half and went into half time with a 61-37 advantage over Central Arizona.
The Aztecs’ largest lead of the half came at 25 points points with 4:29 to go.
Baker had 22 of his team high 24 points in the first half and was 9-for-12 from the field and 4-for-6 beyond the arc.
Central Arizona stormed into the second half with a 13-2 run to narrow Pima’s lead to 68-50 before Peabody took a timeout with 14 minutes to play.
Pima held a 73-57 lead before it went on a 17-2 run capped off by three consecutive 3-pointers made by Mike Pope with 7 minutes left in the game.
Guard Cesar Saenz (Sabino) scored five points in a row to give Pima a 95-59 lead with six minutes to play. The Aztecs’ largest lead of the second half was at 41 points with 29 seconds left to play.
Pima finished with another impressive 45-for-83 (54.2 percent) shooting performance from the field, 19-for-37 (51.4) from behind the 3-point line.
Over the course of the Aztecs’ three-game winning streak, Pima has outscored its opponents 306-207 with an average of of 53 percent shooting from the field.
“That’s something new from the last couple games,” Saenz said about Pima’s shooting success. “That’s two or three games we were shooting the ball good but before that we weren’t shooting well. We’re getting back to our old Pima (way).”
The Aztec defense has proven to be just as potent as its offense as its last three opponents have shot 39.1 percent from the field.
“In the last month, our defense has gotten better,” Peabody said. “Against Chandler-Gilbert, against Glendale and now tonight, we’ve held teams to really low percentage shooting.”
Pima’s three sophomores were honored during halftime of the game and received a huge ovation from the Aztec home bench.
Jackson, Saenz and Pablo Gutierrez (Sabino) were recognized.
Baker scored 24 points and had two steals and two rebounds.
Pope recorded 23 points, two assists and a rebound.
Jamison Kay came off the bench and scored 14 points with five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Jackson scored 12 points with five rebounds, two steals and one assist.
Sanez recorded 11 points with eight assists and three steals.
Alexander notched 10 points with seven rebounds, three assists and a steal.