Pima Community College sports

Pima advances to region championship playing to high-scoring form in rout of Glendale

Pima’s Kota Benson, Wes Ball, Dillan Baker and Cohenj Gonzales help Jaylen Alexander off the ground after Alexander successfully took a charge in the Aztecs’ win over Glendale (Gilbert Alcaraz/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

The Pima Aztecs … they are who we thought they were in a 104-79 victory Thursday night over Glendale, a game in which they tallied 24 assists toward 36 made field goals.

Pima coach Brian Peabody’s team leads all NJCAA Division II programs in the nation in scoring (104.3 points a game) and assists (23.4) and it almost equaled those numbers in the ACCAC Region I Division II semifinal against Glendale at the Aztec West Gym.

Peabody hopes to see a repeat Saturday night at Chandler-Gilbert in the championship at 7. Both teams are 27-4.

Chandler-Gilbert is 2-1 this season against Pima. In the Aztecs’ losses to the Coyotes, they averaged only 70 points and 6.5 assists.

In Pima’s 83-64 win over Chandler-Gilbert on Jan. 24, the Aztecs played more to form with 23 assists.

“No question, it’s going to have to be like this tonight,” Peabody said, referencing the victory over Glendale. “We have different styles. They want to play slow and race to 60 (points). And we want to race to 160.

“So if we can just get some stops and get some things out in transition, I think we’ll be successful. Easier said than done. We just have to play like we did tonight, be dialed in, know who we’re guarding, know the scout and hopefully we’ll end up winning.”

Glendale’s bus had a premonition before Thursday night’s game.

It broke down on the I-10 near Casa Grande forcing the Gauchos to wait an hour and a half for another bus to arrive to take them to Tucson.

Glendale lost for the fourth time to Pima this season, all blowouts. The previous results: 115-71 at Pima on Nov. 28, 107-73 at Glendale on Jan. 31 and 117-88 at Pima on Feb. 24.

Jaylen Alexander led the second-seeded Aztecs with 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field with six rebounds on Thursday night.

Salpointe alum Dillan Baker had 16 points and Gabe Oldham made 6 of 8 shots from the field and finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.

Marana graduate Wes Ball came off the bench to produce a double-double –14 points and 13 rebounds.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Ball commented about Peabody’s high-scoring system. “Everyone gets a lot of shots. No one really cares who scores. We just try to move the ball around, up and down, shoot a lot of shots.

“We’re trying to get a lot better with our defense right now because we have a big game on Saturday where we’ll have to play good defense.”

Aggressive play to the basket in transition — not only taking 3-pointers — is a factor for Pima’s extraordinary scoring.

The Aztecs have eclipsed 100 points 19 times this season. They started the season scoring at least 100 points in the first eight games.

Of the top 10 scoring teams in the nation, Pima is second in the amount of free-throw attempts: 848 (making 586).

Only Davidson-Davie (Neb.) has more tries with 857 (converting 628).

Areas in which Pima can become even more potent is reducing its turnovers (16.4 a game) and increasing its number of steals per game (9.9).

If against Chandler-Gilbert, Pima exceeds that steals total and limits its turnovers (the Aztecs had 15 against Glendale on Thursday night), Peabody’s machine will be functioning at full speed.

Peabody, in his 12th season as the Aztecs’ coach, said of this year’s team: “They’re up there with the top two or three teams I’ve ever coached here.”

Peabody led Pima to three straight NJCAA Region I, Division II championships from 2016 to 2019. In 2018, his team was the national runner-up at the NJCAA Division II Tournament.

“We’re really unselfish,” he added about this year’s group. “It’s fun to play that way. You have a group of guys who don’t care who scores the ball. They just want to win.

“We say, ‘Don’t let the ball stick.’ If we do that, extra pass, next pass, we’ve got a chance.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Chandler-Gilbert, the top seed in the regional tournament, beat Scottsdale 77-64 in the other semifinal matchup Thursday night.

Pima used a pair of 11-4 runs in the second half to break away Glendale.

The Aztecs led 47-32 at halftime and started the second half with their first 11-4 run in two and a half minutes to take their biggest lead at that point of 58-36.

Cohenj Gonzales, the ACCAC Region I Division II Freshman of the Year, found Oldham in the paint for the basket to force Glendale to call timeout.

Up 63-42 with 15:17 left in the game, Pim put together its second 11-4 run and was capped by Ball’s two free throws to make it 74-46 with around 12:30 remaining.

The Gauchos cut Pima’s lead to 86-66 but would not get any closer as freshman Kota Benson, a Mesa High School grad who played at Baboquivari as a freshman, drained a 3-pointer to halt the rally.

The Aztecs went 23 for 29 (79 percent) from the free-throw line.

·Gonzales struggled from the field going 1 for 9 with six points but he made his presence felt on the glass with 10 boards. He also had six assists and three steals.


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 in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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