By JAIME HERNANDEZ
Pima Community College’s men’s basketball team lost an overtime thriller in the opening round of the playoffs, ending their season.
The team fell to No. 1 seed Phoenix College 108-104 in the first round of the Region I, Division II tournament on Feb. 26. The Aztecs finished their season with a 13-18 record, an seven-win improvement from last year.
It was only the second time in 11 years that Pima’s men’s basketball team made the playoffs.
Sophomore Shakir Smith finished the game with 54 points, including 13 consecutive points that put the Aztecs ahead 89-86 with a little more than three minutes left.
Later, with Pima down 96-93, sophomore Tyler D’Amore hit a three-pointer with 20 seconds left to tie the game and force overtime.
Phoenix College hit a couple threes in overtime that proved too much to overcome.
Freshman Ben Gershman finished the season with his 20th double-double of the season with 14 points and 18 rebounds.
Pima will have most of its roster intact going into next season, losing only Smith and D’Amore. The rest of the team is expected to return.
In the final game of the regular season, PCC fell to Glendale Community College 108-86 on Feb. 21.
The loss was the Aztecs’ sixth in a row heading into the playoffs. They finished the season with a 13-17 record and went 8-14 in conference play.
Wins were hard to come by in the final games of the season.
Pima fell to Arizona Western College 85-69 on Feb. 18.
The Aztecs were down by as many as 21 points in the second half but climbed back to cut the lead to eight before Western again pulled away.
“I’m really proud of how our team played tonight,” head coach Brian Peabody said. “They showed a lot of fight and didn’t give up.”
Freshman Ben Gershman led the team with 32 points and 11 rebounds.
Despite the losses, Pima clinched the fourth and final playoff spot in the playoffs due to South Mountain’s loss to Eastern Arizona College.
Pima also fell in a nail biter to Cochise College 82-78 on Feb. 15.
The game went back and forth the entire night, but was sealed when Cochise hit a three pointer with 1:49 left in the game.
Freshman Kendrick Little tried to retaliate for Pima but missed. Little finished the game with 15 points. Shakir Smith was the Aztecs’ leading scorer with 23 points.
On Feb. 12, Pima lost to Tohono O’Odham 106-95.
Pima had a 60-51 lead going into halftime, but was unable to hold on to it. Smith led the way for the Aztecs with 38 points and five rebounds.
Gershman and Smith were named to the All-Conference/Region Teams.
Gershman was named to the Second Team All-ACCAC conference and First Team All-Region I, Division II. He finished the regular season averaging 19 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.
Smith was named to the Second Team All-ACCAC conference and Second Team All-Region I, Division II. Smith averaged 27.7 points per game.