WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Aztecs avoid back-to-back losses

By JASON WEIR

The Pima Community College women’s basketball team got right back to their winning ways after having an 11-game win streak snapped on Jan. 23 at Phoenix College.

The Aztecs went 3-1 in the two-week span, winning back-to-back games before a loss to Eastern Arizona.

A Feb. 10 game at Mesa Community College took place after the Aztec Press went to press.

Pima won the first of its current three-game road trip, beating Cochise College 61-53.

The No. 8 ranked Aztecs gave the Apaches their first home loss this season and swept the season series. After taking a 12-10 lead, the Aztecs held the lead the rest of the night.

Freshman Sydni Stallworth finished with 21 points, her second straight game with 20 or more points.

On Feb. 3, the two top teams in the ACCAC conference met at Pima’s West Campus gym for their second and final regular season matchup. Eastern Arizona won the hard-fought game 77-69.

The Aztecs committed 24 turnovers against the pressure defense of the Gila Monsters. “Can’t give a good team that many opportunities,” head coach Todd Holtaus said.

Pima trailed much of the second half and all of the fourth quarter against the Division I opponent, but never let the Gila Monsters pull away.

“We stayed in the fight,” Holtaus said. “We didn’t give up.”

Two of the top players in the league battled most of the night. Gila Monsters’ Akia Frett and Stallworth, who both received player of the week honors Feb. 8, gave the fans a performance to remember as the two point guards each led their team in scoring.

The two players have seven player of the week honors between them this year.

“She is very good and it brings out the best in me,” Stallworth said about guarding Frett. “It’s tough, but it is fun at the end of the day.”

Sophomore Gabby Banales looked more comfortable as she continues to play more after coming back from a leg injury.

“It is my last year, so I do want to play a lot,” she said. “I have been working in practice at using my legs my more.” She made three of four 3-pointers in the game.

Pima returned home on Jan. 30 to beat Glendale Community College 68-59. The Aztecs had previously beaten the Gauchos 91-64 at Glendale on Dec. 2.

The Gauchos came prepared to challenge the No. 9 ranked Aztecs. Glendale Coach Jennifer Niebling had her team ready to challenge Pima’s athleticism with the Aztecs short-handed as Denesia Smith had to miss another game because of injury.

This fact was not lost on Pima, but don’t look for them to use excuses.

“Hard to replace her athleticism, but no one feels sorry for us,” Holtaus said. “We just have to step up.”

While the Aztecs were missing a key player, they still had many talented players in the lineup and used their size to beat the Gauchos. They outrebounded the Gauchos 53-35 (18-5 on the offensive boards).

Sophomore Taylor Blue led all players with 12 total rebounds (four offensive) and both sophomore Shalise Fernander and freshman Erin Peterson grabbed five offensive boards each.

Pima also blocked five Gauchos shots, with three by Fernander, compared to to just one block against them.

Blue, who led the team in scoring with 17, had a huge block with Pima ahead 56-55 and under four minutes to play. The block led to a layup for Stallworth to put Pima up 58-55.

A bucket by the Gauchos put them within one point ,58-57. Two free throws by Fernander, who got a shooter’s roll on both, followed by a Gauchos turnover and a baseline jumper from Blue, put the Aztecs up 62-57 with just over two minutes left in the game.

“That is where we needed help,” Fernander said about the rebounding edge. “We just control what we can.”

Neither the players or coaches were not happy with their play against the Gauchos, but were glad to get the win.

“It was not pretty but we will take it,” Holtaus said.

“It was sloppy, but I’ll take the win,” Fernander said. “We got the job done.”

The Aztecs rebounded from their second loss in conference play by beating Tohono O’odham Community College on the road 69-44 on Jan. 27.

This was the second time the Aztecs played the Jegos. They won the previous matchup 63-38 on Dec. 14.

The Jegos kept it close in the first half. Pima led 26-19 at the half, but took control of the game in the second half and ended the game outscoring Tohono O’odham 20-9.

 

Freshman guard Denesia Smith and sophomore forward Shalise Fernander prepare to stop a Scottsdale Community College Artichoke player from scoring a basket. (Steven Fowler/Aztec Press)

Freshman guard Denesia Smith and sophomore forward Shalise Fernander prepare to stop a Scottsdale Community College Artichoke player from scoring a basket. (Steven Fowler/Aztec Press)

ON DECK

Feb. 13: @Arizona Western College, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 17: Central Arizona College, West Campus Gym, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 20: South Mountain Community College, West Campus Gym, 2 p.m.

Feb. 23: @ScottsdaleCommunityCollege,5:30p.m.

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