YUMA, Ariz. – Big shot-making and high-flying, back and forth action defined the Region I Championship on Tuesday night in Yuma. The Arizona Western College men’s basketball team protected its home court with a 100-93 win over Cochise College to capture its first Region I title since 2012.
Five guys hit double figures for the Mats (26-6 overall), and the team used a late run to take a double digit lead with less than five minutes to play. With the score tied at 69, Dajuan Beard hit a free throw, and Torin Webb followed it up with a layup one possession later for a 72-69 lead. Beard hit two more free throws after Lamont Traylor hit a bucket to cap a 7-0 spurt that put the Mats up 76-69.
Cochise (25-7 overall) cut the lead to five at 79-74, and Webb answered with six straight points. The Region I Tournament MVP knocked down a free throw before nailing a wide open corner three that pushed the lead to 83-75 with 5:40 to play. After Cochise’s Shadeed Shabazz sank two free throws, Webb blew by his defender for an easy layup that kept the lead at eight. He led the Mats with 24 points and added six rebounds.
Andre Jones attacked the basket after the Mats forced a turnover to push the lead to 10 with 4:20 to play.
Cochise cut the lead to 89-80 with 2:59 left, but Apache head coach Jerry Carrillo was whistled for a technical foul after arguing through a timeout and into the beginning of the next possession. Webb calmly sank both free throws for an 11-point lead, and then the Mats beat the press to score two more for their largest lead of the game.
The Apaches immediately came down the floor and whipped a pass to Ludovic Kader for a three. Kader knocked it down for his fifth three of the half to cut the lead to 10. He finished 8-10 for the game from beyond the three-point line and scored 28.
Webb responded with another rack attack, and he knocked down a layup for a 12 point advantage.
With less than 45 seconds to go, Kader drilled yet another three to trim the lead to 95-90, but Arizona Western went 5-6 from the free throw line to close the game.
At the start of the game, Cochise took the lead after forcing the Mats to turn the ball over. The Apaches led 12-8, but Beard fed Lamont Traylor on two straight possessions to tie the game at 12. Traylor led the Mats with 11 points in the first half, and the freshman finished with 18.
Cochise quickly responded and pushed the lead out to six with a bucket by Brandell Evans a few minutes later. The lead grew to 34-27 with less than five minutes to play in the first half.
Daryl Adams drilled two straight three’s to get AWC right back in the game with 3:44 left in the half. Cochise knocked down a three after a timeout, but the Mats ripped off seven straight points. Webb tied the game at 37, and then Rob Jones passed it out from the post to Beard for a corner three that made it 40-37 with 1:20 to go in the half. Beard finished the game with 16 points and six assists, and AWC led 40-39 at the half.
After halftime, Andre Jones came out in attack mode. He scored the team’s first four points and drew the fourth foul on Cochise’s Dallas Polk-Hilliard, the conference Co-Player of the Year. Jones finished with 16 points while also battling foul trouble.
Adams shoveled a pass to Rob Jones underneath for a layup and a 46-40 Matador lead, their largest of the game to that point. Adams finished with 14 points, five boards and two blocked shots.
About 90 seconds later, Cochise tied the game at 49 when Evans converted two free throws. He had 16 points and five assists.
With the score tied at 52, Andre Jones scored six straight to put the Mats up 58-54 with 15 minutes to play. He picked up his fourth foul and exited the game, but the Matadors maintained the slight lead for the next several minutes.
Shabazz trimmed the lead to 64-63 with a leaner in the lane, but Beard attacked and scored five quick points to establish a 69-63 lead. Shabazz and Kader both drained three’s to knot things up at 69 with 9:40 to play in the game.
The Matadors host the College of Southern Idaho in the District Championship on Saturday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30, and no passes will be accepted. Tickets are only $5 for adults.
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.