YUMA, Ariz. – A 16 point halftime lead vanished, but the Arizona Western College men’s basketball team persevered and rallied on Tuesday night in Yuma. The Mats (21-9 overall, 16-6 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) took out seventh-ranked Pima Community College (26-4 overall, 18-4 ACCAC) 95-88 by scoring the final eight points and 11 of the final 12.
AWC’s offense revved back up in the last couple of minutes. Down 87-84, Alfonso Plummer hit a twisting, fadeaway three from the left side that evened the game. After Pima went 1-2 at the line, the Mats got out on the break. Lamont Traylor threw down a thunderous dunk for an 89-88 lead, and Pima never scored again. AWC pushed the lead to 91-88 after Dajuan Beard slipped a pass to Daryl Adams on a backdoor cut for a layup with the shot clock winding down.
After Pima turned it over, Traylor snagged an Adams miss for a putback and a 93-88 lead with less than 30 seconds left. Traylor finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Marvin Mapaga grabbed a Pima mess with 17 seconds left, and he hit two free throws to ice the game. He had 13 points and five rebounds.
Plummer led the Mats with 21 points as six players hit double figures for AWC.
The Mats clicked on offense and defense in the first half. After Pima jumped out to an early lead, AWC ripped off a 20-4 run to take a 30-15 lead. Plummer capped off the run with eight of the final 10 points.
Pima’s Alize Travis hit a shot, but the Mats were just getting warmed up. Mapaga turned into a one-man wrecking crew and scored eight points during a 10-2 spurt. He hammered in a ferocious one-handed slam on the baseline to put AWC up 40-19.
The lead grew to 22 points, 49-27 and 52-30, but Pima scored six straight to make it 52-36 at the half.
In the second half, Pima was the team that found the early rhythm and groove. The Aztecs began chipping away at the Matador lead slowly, and Jeremiah Bailey scored on a bucket that cut the lead to 60-51 with 14:48 to go.
Ezekiel Alley hit a three for the Mats, but Pima kept on inching closer. The Aztecs used a 19-3 run over a four-and-a-half minute stretch to not only erase the lead but take the lead. After Isaiah Murphy hit a three with 7:54 left, Pima led 75-69.
Plummer hit a layup that shook off the doldrums for AWC’s offense, but Pima stretched the lead to 80-73 a few possessions later.
McGhee took it to the rim and hit a layup while being fouled, and he completed the three-point play. That started a 10-0 run for the Mats powered by McGhee and Plummer. The two scored all 10 points during that stretch for an 83-80 lead with four minutes left. McGhee scored eight of his 10 points after the half, and he added six assists and four rebounds.
Adams was a steady presence throughout the night for the Mats and had 19 points. Pima was led by 22 points from Justin Bessard.
The Mats are the top seed in the Region I, Division I Playoffs and will host Central Arizona College on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Yuma. No passes will be accepted for the game, and tickets are $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 2,300 certificates and degrees in 2016-17.