By CHRISTIAN MORTENSEN
Despite their loss to Phoenix College on Feb. 17, the Pima Community College Men’s Basketball team are still in the midst of one of the best seasons in the history of the program.
The Aztecs are currently ranked No. 5 in the country and are sitting at a record of 24-3 overall and are second in the Arizona Community College Athletics Conference standings, with a record of 16-3 in conference play. With only three games remaining before regionals, the Aztecs conference record has guaranteed them either the first or second seed in the tournament.
This success is coming despite an injury to one of their most important players, sophomore guard Keven Biggs, who was Pima’s leading scorer before he went down with an ankle injury on Feb. 3 against Eastern Arizona College. In his absence, freshman point guard Abram Carrasco has been inserted into the starting lineup and has continued to play just as well as he was when he was coming off the bench earlier in the season.
Carrasco is averaging 18.6 points per game, which is the second second highest average overall in the conference. Sophomore Isaiah Murphy has continued to be solid as well, averaging 15.8 ppg.
Feb. 17: No. 5 Pima CC 77, No. 13 Phoenix College 87
In a matchup of the top two teams in the ACCAC, the Aztecs were defeated by the Phoenix College Bears 87-77 at the West Campus Gym.
The loss against the national No. 13 Bears snapped Pima’s 10 game winning streak and dropped the Aztecs to second place overall in the conference.
It was a strong first half for Pima, as after a slow start for both teams they led 43-42 at the break after impressive first half performances from Carrasco and forward Justin Bessard. Carrasco had 17 points in the period while Bessard was in double figures for both rebounds and points before the break.
The second half was an intense affair, as both teams realized what was at stake in the game; first place out right in the conference.
It was back and forth until Phoenix took the lead at 66-64 with seven minutes left on the game clock. Pima never had a lead in the game again. The Aztecs’ lack of ball control was a huge factor in the loss as Phoenix ended up turning Pima over 18 different times. The Aztecs struggled to shoot the ball as well, shooting only 43% from the field which is well below their season average of nearly 50%.
Carrasco ended up being the leading scorer for Pima with 23 points.
With the loss, Phoenix swept the season series between the two schools.
Feb. 14: No. 5 Pima CC 96, Cochise College 86
After trailing Cochise College by 1 point at halftime, Pima outscored the Apaches 55-44 in the second half to claim their 10th straight victory, this one in come-from-behind fashion in Douglas.
Sophomore forward Ilunga Moise powered the Aztecs on the night, as his constant hard work manifested itself into the final box score. He finished with a double-double of 24 points and 13 rebounds. Guard Allize Travis played a pivotal role for Pima as well; finishing with 23 points and 8 assists.
It was the Pima’s 24th win of the season; the most compiled in a single season under head coach Brian Peabody.
Feb. 10: No. 5 Pima CC 111, Scottsdale CC 71
In the second game of their season against Scottsdale Community College, the Aztecs defeated the Artichokes by a score of 111-71 to notch their 18th win in their last 19 games and to sweep the season series between the two schools.
Pima was clinical in the 40-point blowout, as the team shot an astounding 51.3 percent from the 3-point line and 49.3 percent overall from the field. Murphy was super efficient in particular, as the sophomore guard finished with a 28-point performance on 9-12 shooting.
After the game, Murphy was happy with the team’s effort in the runaway victory.
“Every time we come on the court, we want to give all-out effort,” he said, “and I think the way we played tonight, especially defensively, shows what we want to be about.”
Feb. 7: No. 5 Pima CC 90, South Mountain CC 73
Playing on the road in Phoenix, Pima defeated South Mountain Community College 90-73 to win their eighth-straight game and to improve to 22-2 overall on the year and 14-2 in conference play. With the win, the Aztecs surpassed their conference win total of 13 from last season.
It was a close game at halftime, as Pima led South Mountain by only one 49-48, when the teams went into the break. The Aztecs pulled away in the second half, though, outscoring their opponents 41-25 in the defining period.
Carrasco led Pima in scoring with 22 points to go with 8 rebounds, while Travis added 20 points, 7 assists, 4 steals and 4 rebounds.