By ERIC TOWNSEND
Photos by JAMES KELLEY
After dropping the season opener 103-86 to Salt Lake Community College in Cedar City, Utah, Pima reeled off a five-game winning streak.
“I’m excited at how we’ve grown up together so fast and gelled as a team,” sophomore forward Deanna Daniels said. “Chemistry off the court has built chemistry on the court.”
After a 1-1 split in Utah, the Aztecs were anxious to get things going when they traveled to Yuma, Ariz. to play in the AWC Desert Classic.
The Aztecs opened the tournament with a 77-41 win over Muskegon Community College.
Freshman guard Johnelle Hannah led the Aztecs in scoring with 13 points. Daniels added 12 of her own, along with 10 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Sara Nicholson scored 11, while freshman guard Naderra Carey scored seven points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
The next day, the Aztecs survived a second-half comeback by Cisco College to win 68-61.
Guard play was huge as Nicholson led the Aztecs in scoring with 14 points. Sophomore Anyela Lopez chipped in with 10 points. Daniels and sophomore forward Gaby Ayon added 12 and eight points respectively, and the two combined for 20 rebounds.
Pima opened conference play when they traveled to Chandler-Gilbert Community College on Nov. 17. A big first half by the Aztecs led to an 82-44 win. Daniels posted a double-double, scoring 19 points and pulling down 15 rebounds. Nicholson added 10 points.
Pima hosted its first home game of the season Nov. 20 against conference foe Scottsdale Community College. Sharp shooting and impressive rebounding led to a “sloppy” 87-62 Aztecs win.
“We played sloppy,” head coach Todd Holthaus said.
“But still we did a good job of being physical, rebounding and second-chance points. We did some good things, but we got to take better care of the ball… there’s a lot of things to tighten up, but we’ll get better.”
Daniels had another big night for the Aztecs, scoring 26 points and grabbing 18 rebounds. Carey also again had another solid effort, scoring eight points, dishing eight assists and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Aztecs improved to 5-1 on the season, and 2-0 in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference.
“I think we’re off to a better start than we could have hoped for, considering how young we are and how inexperienced we are,” Holthaus said. “To go to Thanksgiving break at 5 and 1, we’ll definitely take it. And we’re 2 and 0 in the conference, which is more important.”
Pima will return to action after the short holiday break, traveling to Phoenix College on Dec. 1. Three of the next four games will be tough road tests, including a battle against No. 2 and undefeated Central Arizona College.
“I think we will be ready,” Daniels said.
“As long as people do what they’re supposed to do on and after the break. If we work out a little bit, come back not so out of shape, then I think we’ll be good.”
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