YUMA, Ariz. – A stifling defense powered the Arizona Western College on Friday night at the Desert Classic in Yuma. AWC (3-2 overall) held Illinois Central (4-2 overall) to 34% shooting in a 62-56 win. Arizona Western never trailed, but a crazy final 90 seconds made it close.
Destiny Gonzalez put the Lady Mats up 61-45 with a baseline jumper with two minutes to play, and it seemed like the game was over. Illinois Central had been struggling to score, and AWC just had to avoid turnovers and run clock.
Instead, Illinois Central amped up a physical full court press, forced turnovers and attacked the basket. The Cougars ripped off an 11-0 run to trim the lead to 61-56 after Kellyn Maynard hit a pair of technical foul shots with seven seconds to play.
AWC got the ball inbounds to Theyound Puoy, and Puoy went 1-2 from the line with 6.5 seconds left. Nicole Smith stole the ball on Illinois Central’s final possession to seal the deal.
Arizona Western’s defense was airtight at the start of the game. The Lady Mats held Illinois Central scoreless for the first six minutes to take an 8-0 lead. Josselyn Morris led the way with five points in the quarter, and she had a team high 15 in the game. She added four steals. At the end of the first quarter, AWC led 11-4.
Raven Roberts keyed the Lady Matador offense early in the second quarter. The freshman assisted on a pair of Gonzalez buckets in the first four minutes as AWC extended the lead to 17-8.
Illinois Central finally started to knock down shots to close the gap. Kellyn Maynard and Sia Williams both scored five points in the quarter as the Cougars tied the game at 21 apiece with a little more than two minutes left in the half.
Morris responded with a Lady Matador three off a pass from Gonzalez, and Aimee Brett drilled a three with 30 seconds to play for a 27-22 halftime lead.
Illinois Central rattled off five straight to start the second half and tie the game on a Williams and-one.
Over the next two minutes, Roberts drained two threes, and the Lady Mats started to build a lead. Nicole Smith capped a 13-4 spurt by hitting a layup while being fouled, but she missed the free throw to keep the AWC lead 40-31.
The two sides traded buckets down the stretch, and Morris put the Lady Mats up 45-36 at the end of the third with her third three of the game.
In the fourth quarter, Arizona Western locked in again on defense for the first six minutes. AWC reeled off a 12-5 spurt that Roberts finished with two free throws. A few possession later, Gonzalez hit her jumper to make it 61-45 and set up the final few minutes. Gonzalez had 13 points and five rebounds, and Roberts finished with 12 points, three rebounds and two assists before fouling out.
Abby Coates led Illinois Central with 13 points. Maynard added 11.
AWC takes on Mesa tomorrow in a non-conference matchup at the Desert Classic. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
In the first women’s game of the day, Mesa rolled Eastern Arizona 79-46. Mesa’s Leah Goodman led the Thunderbirds with 17 points after hitting five three’s.
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.
1 2 3 4 Final
Illinois Central College 4 18 14 20 56
Arizona Western College 11 16 18 17 62
AWC: Josselyn Morris 15 points, 4 st
Destiny Gonzalez 13 points, 5 reb
Raven Roberts 12 points, 3 reb, 2 ast
ICC: Abby Coates 13 points, 5 reb
Kellyn Maynard 11 points