YUMA, Ariz. – Defense powered the offense on Saturday night for the Arizona Western College men’s basketball team. The Mats (22-9 overall) snatched 12 steals that led to slam dunks and easy buckets going the other way in an 85-57 win over Central Arizona (12-18 overall). The win means that the Mats will host the Region I Finals for the second straight year.
Five guys hit double figures as the Matadors shared the wealth throughout the game. AWC had 19 assists on 39 made shots.
The Mats never trailed in the game, but AWC only led 5-3 after a couple of minutes. The Matador defense kicked it into high gear and shut down CAC by not allowing a point for the next five minutes. Meanwhile, the Matador offense ground out an 11-0 run that Dajuan Beard started with a three and Marvin Mapaga capped with a bucket and a 16-3 lead. Beard finished the game with 12 points, six assists and three steals, and Mapaga tied his career high with 13 points.
Central Arizona scored after a timeout to end the run with 12:20 to go in the first half, but AWC kept the Vaqueros in single digits while building a 24-9 lead.
AWC went cold, and it was Central’s turn to trim the gap. Thanks to the Matador defense though, Central could only close the gap to 25-17 with about 5:30 left before the half.
Beard whipped a pass to Lamont Traylor for a bucket inside to re-establish a 10-point lead, and the Mats were off and running again. McGhee found Traylor for another bucket, and then Beard fed Andre Allen for a deuce and a 31-19 lead. Beard capped an 11-2 run with five points of his own to put AWC up 38-21 with 1:45 to go in the half. Allen had 11 points in the game and added six rebounds.
The two teams traded buckets, and AWC led 42-25 at the break. The Matador defense held Central Arizona to 29% shooting from the floor in the first half.
After halftime, Central came out on the attack and managed to get the lead down to 45-33, but the Mats responded. Beard fed Traylor again, and then Traylor had one of the highlights of the night. He cupped an offensive rebound with one hand and slammed it back down for an emphatic 49-33 lead. Once again, the Mats were off and running, and this time Central had no answers. Traylor put the Mats up by 20 a few minutes later, and he led AWC with 15 points and eight rebounds.
AWC put on a show with four straight dunks with less than five minutes to play during yet another run. This time Mapaga and Will Miles traded slams back and forth as the Mats pushed the lead to 77-49.
Daryl Adams added 10 points for AWC to go with seven rebounds, three assists and four steals.
Trever Irish led Central Arizona with 19 points and 14 rebounds, but he didn’t get much help. The rest of his team shot 26% from the floor.
Monday night, the Matador host Cochise College at 7:30 p.m. in the Region I Finals. Tickets are $5, and no passes will be accepted for the game.
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.