Pima Community College sports

Pima loses to Scottsdale in region semifinals but still hopeful of national-tournament bid

Pima coach Todd Holthaus lost a playoff game at home on Thursday night for only the second time in his 16 years as head coach and the Aztecs will not play in a region championship for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

“I kind of wear it as like a badge of honor,” Holthaus said of his postseason success, especially at home, after Thursday night’s 49-43 loss to Scottsdale at the Aztec West Gym.

Not all is lost.


The Aztecs (23-8) are harboring hope of making the 20-team NJCAA Division II tournament as an at-large team. This is the first season the national tournament is expanding from 16 to 20 teams.

“We have a ray of sunshine,” said Holthaus. “After a tough loss, I don’t know if they (his team) wants to hear that. They feel bad because they lost.

“I told them in there (the locker room) I couldn’t be prouder of them. I just love the way they play. I like the way we represented ourselves.”

Holthaus mentioned that despite Pima tying its season low in points with 43 (matching the output in a 62-43 defeat at Arizona Western on Jan. 13).

The second-seeded Aztecs did not make a 3-pointer in 11 attempts and shot 33.9 percent from the field.

What makes Holthaus proud is the toughness of his team, generated by ACCAC Region I Division II Player of the Year Rylei Waugh, who played through the uncomfortable feeling of eight stitches on her forehead (a result of an elbow she took Monday in a loss at Eastern Arizona).

Waugh finished with a team-high 12 points but was 6 of 23 from the field, 0 of 6 from beyond the arc.

“She never stops; she has a great attitude,” Holthaus said. “She was elbowed in the EAC game and was bleeding right down her forehead and was rushed off the court. Blood was everywhere and she got rushed through concussion protocol.

“Next thing you know, she’s coming back out, butterflied (bandaged) up and ready to go. The reality is that she’s kind of a pitbull, and she doesn’t cry about things. I know she’ll be ready to go.”

Scottsdale’s top four players are sophomores (including the game’s leading scorer Danay Williams with 18 points) while Pima has 12 freshmen on its roster, including Waugh and Bisbee graduate Gabby Lopez (the ACCAC Region I Division II Defensive Player of the Year).

Holthaus said he did not want to use the inexperience in a playoff game as an excuse, but it was obvious that Scottsdale had a mental edge throughout.

The third-seeded Artichokes (18-11) lost to Pima in the region championship game last year.

Scottsdale coach Tasha Washington was 0-9 in her three-year career against Holthaus and Pima before Thursday night.

The Artichokes came close to beating Pima at the Aztec West Gym on Feb. 3 but lost 69-66 in overtime. The Aztecs shot only 32.1 percent from the field in that game.

“We lost here in the championship game last year, so they (Scottdale’s sophomores) all felt that they got to experience it, and it’s great that we have a different result,” Washington said.

“I’m a defensive-first coach,” Washington reasoned for Pima’s shooting struggles. “If you can play defense, it’s anybody’s game.”

Finally beating a Holthaus-coached team is a source of pride for Washington, who mentioned, “I’m not gonna say it’s everything but it’s a big deal, especially going into the championship game on the road. … I have not beaten Todd even at home but they (her team) wanted to change that around. I’m glad that they got together and they banded together.”

The game was low-scoring and close throughout.

It was tied at 9 at the end of the first quarter and Pima led 21-19 at halftime.

The turning point was a 10-2 run by Scottsdale that gave the Artichokes a 35-29 lead with 7:49 left.

After Lopez made a steal and layup to the game at 35 with 5:55 left, it appeared Pima could overtake Scottsdale.

The Artichokes took a 45-39 lead before Taina Lee (one of only four sophomores on Pima’s roster) and Waugh made consecutive strong drives to the basket.

Pima trailed 45-43 with 29 seconds left.

Williams missed consecutive free throws for Scottsdale but the Artichokes grabbed the offensive rebound and had another opportunity at the line.

Makeylei Snyder made both free throws and Pima missed on the other end.

From then, it was just a matter of time.

“I feel like the team’s really worked hard all season and I think it’s something that is much deserved and we need it,” Pima post player Dominique Acosta said about the Aztecs’ postseason chances. “We’re not done with this season.”

Acosta had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and Rori Hoffmeyer had 10 points while making 4 of 5 shots. Combined they were 9 of 12 from the field. Their teammates were 10 of 44.

“It’s just a little bit about mindset,” Acosta said of the shooting woes. “We’ve just got to work harder. They wanted it a little bit more. So we just had to be there. I feel like we showed great composure. We didn’t give up to the last second. I think that was really important. We just have to keep going.”

Holthaus called the next 48 to 72 hours or so until he learns of his team’s fate Sunday, “uncharted territory” because of the potential at-large bid.

“We’re going to open the gym tomorrow, we’ll come shoot and say a few prayers,” Holthaus said.

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