YUMA, Ariz. – The slimmest of margins separate wins and losses in tight games. On Saturday night, the Arizona Western College men’s basketball team fell just short in the District 1 Final to 23rd ranked College of Southern Idaho 92-89.
The Mats (26-7 overall) erased a double digit once in the second half, but they couldn’t do it a second time with less than five minutes to play. Down 81-72, Andre Jones found Dajuan Beard open for a three that made it a two-possession game. CSI (27-6 overall) scored four quick points to boost the lead to 10 before AWC could respond.
Lamont Traylor powered his way to a bucket inside, and Torin Webb drilled a three that cut the lead to five with a little more than four minutes to play. The Matador defense came up with two big stops, but Jones and Traylor each went 1-2 from the free throw line. With 3:33 to play, the Mats trailed 85-82. Traylor had 23 points, and Webb added 13.
CSI ran the lead out to 90-84 after some nice interior passing led to two easy buckets and a free throw by Darius Alexander. Beard whipped a pass to Daryl Adams for three in the corner to make it a one possession game. Adams finished with 18 points. AWC got a stop, but a turnover led to a scramble. The Mats thought they had forced a jump ball, but Beard was whistled for his fourth foul with 12 seconds to play, and CSI’s Casdon Jardine went 1-2 from the line for a 91-87 lead. Jardine scored 11 of his 17 points after halftime.
After an AWC timeout, Beard knifed down the lane for a quick bucket with seven seconds left. AWC fouled Danya Kingsby with 5.8 to go, and Kingsby kept the door open by only hitting 1-2 at the line. Beard raced up the court but missed a leaner from straightaway that would have tied it. He finished with 22 points and hit four three’s.
Early in the second half, it seemed like CSI was never going to miss. After the Golden Eagles hit eight three’s in the first half, Jake Hendricks hit two more to start the second half to build a 55-42 lead.
Traylor put the Mats on the board after halftime with a bucket, but Alexander attacked the rim and made a layup to put CSI up 57-44.
Arizona Western got hot, and Webb hit back-to-back three’s to trim the lead to seven. Andre Jones went on the attack and dunked it to make it a five point game. Adams hit a spinning layup while being fouled and converted the free throw, and Beard hit a three that cut the lead to 60-58 with 15:40 to play.
A few possessions later, Brandon McGhee tied the game at 64 by going 1-2 at the free throw line.
Southern Idaho responded with a Jardine triple to retake the lead for good. Every time the Mats seemed poised to tie it, CSI answered with a layup or free throws over the next few minutes. The CSI lead grew to nine with a little more than 7:30 to play.
In the first half, the two teams took a little bit to find their rhythms, but the game took off once they did. Beard did a lot of the heavy lifting for AWC in the first 10 minutes. He scored 11 of AWC’s first 20 points and hit a three to cut CSI’s lead to 21-20 with 10:45 left in the half.
Southern Idaho answered with an 8-2 spurt capped by a triple from Charles Jones, Jr. Beard shoveled a pass inside to Traylor for a layup that started a Matador run. Traylor hit a shot in the post the next time down the floor to cut the lead to 29-26. Andre Jones and Rob Jones both grabbed offensive boards and hit layups to put AWC up 30-29 with 5:18 left in the half.
Hendricks drained a three, and CSI retook the lead with a 9-0 run. Josiah Barsh capped the run with a transition layup for a 38-30 lead.
Adams banked a shot home, and the two sides traded buckets through the remainder of the half. CSI led 49-42 at the break.
Kingsby scored 17 points for CSI. Deishuan Booker added 15 points, and Jones Jr. scored 16.
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.