Pima Community College sports

Pima men end season 25-7 after loss to Scottsdale in region championship

Traivar Jackson, of Anchorage, Alaska, ended his Pima career scoring 23 points in the Aztecs’ loss to Scottsdale in the region championship game (Stephanie van Latum/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

As time goes on, one night won’t define Pima’s season, and the thought of what-could-have-been will be more of how special it all was.

The No. 1-seeded Aztecs lost on Friday night at home against No. 2 Scottsdale 90-69 in the NJCAA Region I, Division II championship, a game that was a struggle shortly after the beginning for Pima.

“I’m shocked to be honest with you,” Pima coach Brian Peabody said. “That wasn’t my team. It wasn’t like that ever one time this year.”

The Aztecs (25-7) are second nationally among Division II teams in field-goal percentage (52.5), eighth in 3-point shooting percentage (37.6), fourth in scoring average (95.9 points a game) and sixth in assists (21.7 per game).

They scored well below their average while shooting 38.6 percent from the field, made only 6 of 24 (25 percent) from beyond the arc and finished with 16 turnovers to go with their 11 assists.

“I’m not sure what happened; I don’t know,” Peabody said. “I just know that they (Scottsdale) played harder. They got every loose ball. They got every rebound.

“It’s unfortunate we go every 365 days preparing for 40 minutes and that’s the 40 minutes that we got.”

Pima scored nine of the game’s first 10 points and sophomore Pablo Gutierrez (Sabino grad) hit a 3-pointer to make it 12-7, but the Artichokes answered with what proved to be a defining moment of the game — a 12-0 run to take the lead for good at 19-12.

Peabody took two timeouts during that run to address defensive breakdowns against Scottsdale’s aggressive guards Carson Kelly and Unisa Turay, who combined for 42 points while making 17 of 30 shots from the field, most converted from bold drives to the basket.

Scottsdale built on the early 12-0 run and outscored Pima 29-7 in that stretch to build a 36-19 lead. The Aztecs countered with an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 36-27, but the Artichokes scored nine unanswered points to extend the lead to 46-27.

Kelly, a sophomore guard from Chandler High School, was selected the region tournament’s MVP after his 19-point, 12-assist and three-steal performance. He had only two turnovers in 36 minutes despite trying to penetrate in the lane often.

“College is way more physical than high school; those guys play so much tougher,” said freshman guard Jake Smith, a Buena alum who is biding his time behind Scottsdale’s experienced guards.

“They want to get to a higher level so they play way harder.”

Smith’s former Buena teammate Cooper Jones is redshirting this season with Pima.

Pima’s Dillan Baker, a freshman from Salpointe, converted on a three-point play to cut into Scottsdale’s lead at 52-40 with 17:45 left. Jaylen Alexander, another freshman, later cut it to 73-61 with 7:25 remaining but the Aztecs could not get any closer.

The Artichokes went on a 9-1 run to increase the lead to 82-62 with 4:35 left.

“We’re going to remember the feeling, that’s for sure,” said Baker, who finished with 14 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. “We’re going to try to make sure it doesn’t happen again and use it as motivation going forward and get better.”

Traivar Jackson, a sophomore bound for a four-year college program, finished with a team-high 23 points to go along with six rebounds, five steals, three assists and two blocks.

Sabino graduate Cesar Saenz, another sophomore whose career will continue at a four-year school, added 11 points, four assists and three rebounds.

Pima won the regular-season ACCAC Region I Division II championship with a 16-6 record, the most wins in a season since 2018-19 in both cases). They finished with a 17-2 record at the West Campus Aztec Gymnasium.

“Unfortunately everybody’s going to remember the last game,” said Peabody, who recently won his 200th game at Pima in his 11th year as head coach. “We won our region so we had a really good year. We only have three sophomores, so we have everybody coming back.

“I’m excited about the future. (Scottsdale) started five sophomores. We’ll be back. We’ll turn something positive around with this whole deal.”


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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