YUMA, Ariz. – Two crucial stops in the waning seconds solidified Arizona Western’s 80-77 victory over the Mesa Thunderbirds in the Semi-Finals of the Region I Division I Playoffs Saturday night.
The Matadors win, coupled with Eastern Arizona knocking off top-seeded Cochise, allows Arizona Western to host the Region I Final Monday night at 7:30pm against the Gila Monsters.
Arizona Western did not have an easy time of it Saturday. Despite building multiple leads early, Mesa made their runs and closed the gap multiple times in the first half.
The Mats raced out to an 11-3, only for the Thunderbirds to rally and make it 11-10. The Mats pulled away again minutes later before trading baskets for the first fifteen minutes.
Mesa would eventually take the lead, up 32-31 with just about five minutes in the half.
And then the Matadors began knocking down threes. Bryson Langdon hit all three of his treys apart of a 20-4 run to close the half.
Jordan Green was 4-4 on three’s in the first half and Alfonso Plummer added one of his two first half three’s in the run. That gave AWC a 51-36 lead at the half.
Mesa chipped away over the first 19 minutes of the second half, using all ten of Rajhan Billingsley’s points in the period. Kyle Fischer added 10 of his 17 and the Thunderbirds made it a one point game with 34 seconds left and they had the ball.
After a timeout, Mesa got the ball in the paint to Jok Jok who attempted a baseline pass, but Green’s defense forced an errant throw and gave the ball back to the Matadors with 9.4 seconds left.
After a missed free-throw on the front end of a 1 and 1, Mesa had another chance to take the lead, but Fischer was stonewalled by Andre Allen who forced a wild shot off the backboard, allowing Plummer to grab the rebound.
Plummer hit both free throws to make it a three point lead.
Cash Williams deflected the in-bound pass to prevent a last second shot and secure the final score.
As the top seed, the Matadors will host fourth seeded Eastern Arizona 7:30pm Monday night March 4th at The House for the Region I Final. The winner will host Region 18 on Saturday, March 9th for a trip to the NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas.
There will be no passes on Monday night, General Admission is $5. MAA Members using their reserved seats need to notify Cindy Evans.
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.