YUMA, Ariz. – A pair of big surges put the Arizona Western College men’s basketball team over the top in the second half against Central Arizona College on Saturday night. Don’t let the 85-67 final score fool you. The game was close for most of the contest. The win means the Mats are headed to the Region I Finals for the first time since 2013-14.
Arizona Western (25-6 overall) erased a five point deficit by ratcheting up the half-court defense and forcing turnovers. The Mats held Central Arizona to 33% from the floor and didn’t allow CAC to hit a three after halftime.
Down 47-42 with 14:33 to play, AWC’s Tyler Motley wound up with the ball after the Mats poked it away from CAC (16-15 overall). He whipped a pass ahead to Dajuan Beard who knifed into the paint and hit a layup while being fouled. Beard sank the free throw, and the Mats started to roll.
Beard then took the ball from JaQuan Johnson before finding Lamont Traylor for a bucket that tied the game at 47. Torin Webb attacked the basket and hit a layup to put the Mats up by two. After another Traylor bucket, Beard again stole the ball and again hit a layup while being fouled. He converted the three-point play to push the lead to 54-49 with 12:08 to go. Beard finished with nine points and three assists.
Central Arizona closed the gap to 54-53 with back-to-back buckets, but Arizona Western responded. Andre Jones hit a free throw, and then Torin Webb outjumped everyone to tip in a Matador miss. The Mats ripped off an 11-2 run that Webb capped with a layup for a 65-55 lead with less than seven minutes to play. He scored 15 of his 20 points after halftime.
With the Mats up 70-60, Webb beat the shot clock with a step-back three that boosted the lead to 13 with three minutes left. Arizona Western didn’t turn the ball over down the stretch and knocked down free throws and layups for the final tally.
At the start of the game, the two sides traded the lead back and forth through the first six minutes. Central took a 10-8 lead after a fadeaway by Karriem Simmons. Simmons led all scorers with 26 points.
Webb and Beard combined to score eight straight points for AWC during a 90 second stretch for a 16-10 lead.
Central Arizona answered with five straight points, but Andre Jones snuck a pass inside to Rob Jones for a layup that shut down the run. Rob Jones finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.
A few minutes later, Webb found Daryl Adams and Brandon McGhee open for three’s that pushed the Matador lead to 27-18. Adams finished with 13 points, and McGhee added nine points and four assists. McGhee gave the Mats their first double digit lead with a layup with 4:20 to go in the first half, 33-23.
Simmons responded with back-to-back three’s that trimmed the lead to four, and Central Arizona reeled off a 12-3 run to close the half. Simmons beat the buzzer with a bank shot to cut the Matador lead to 36-35.
At the start of the second half, Simon Okolue went to work on the block for CAC. He scored four straight points out of the locker room to put CAC up 39-36, but Adams knocked down a three that tied it. Central Arizona then pushed the lead to five over the next four minutes before the Matadors called timeout down 47-42.
Traylor finished with 11 points, four rebounds and three steals for AWC.
The Mats host Cochise College for the Region I Final on Monday, March 6. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 pm, and no passes will be accepted. Tickets are $5.
Arizona Western College is one of the top community colleges in Arizona. The college boasts partnerships with all three state universities that include face-to-face classes in Yuma. AWC leads the state in enrollment growth over the past 10 years and handed out more than 2,400 certificates and degrees in 2015-16.