Aztecs Overcome Early Upset to Finish 7th
By MONTY GANTT
The Pima Community College Men’s Basketball team traveled to Danville, Illinois as the No. 3 team in the country for the NJCAA Men’s Division II National Championship Tournament. Although falling victim to a first round upset, the Aztecs bounced back to win three straight games and finish 7th in the nation. The following is a quick recap of their tournament run.
March 23 vs Ancilla College (W 104-101)
The 3rd seeded Pima Community College Men’s Basketball team defeated the 12th seeded Ancilla College (Donaldson, Indiana) Chargers 104-101 to claim 7th place in the NJCAA Men’s Division II National Championship Tournament.
In the first half, the Aztecs fell into a 34-28 deficit after a 10-2 run by the Chargers. The Aztecs then used a 15-5 run of their own to take a 43-39 halftime lead.
Early on in the second half, the Aztecs went on a 12-4 run to take a 68-56 lead, their largest lead of the game. The Chargers then scored 4 straight points to cut the Aztec lead to single digits.
After taking a 86-83 lead with 5:43 left in the game, the Aztecs used a 9-2 run within 2 minutes to take a 95-85 lead with 3:50 left in the game. They were then outscored 16-9 by the Chargers as the came went down to the final shot.
With 2.4 seconds left in the game, the Chargers were forced to heave a long three-point shot that failed to go in as the buzzer sounded.
Sophomore Kennedy Koehler finished the game with a monsterous 35 points and 21 rebounds.
“I feel like I’ve always been capable of that,” Koehler said .
“Coach (Brian Peabody) said ‘if you average a double-double, we win a lot of games and it’ll earn you a lot of success in your future.’ We’ve been talking about Danville all year. It was a good experience.” Koehler said.
Koehler was named to the NJCAA Division II All-Tournament Team after averaging 26 points and 14 rebounds.
Sophomore Abram Carrasco (26 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds) finished his Pima career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,310 points.
Also coming up big for the Aztecs was freshman Rashad Smith (20 points on 8 for 15 shooting) sophomore Robert Wilson (9 points and 12 rebounds).
The Aztecs finished their season with an overall record of 29-7; winning three games in a row after falling to 14th seeded Cecil College in the tournament’s 1st round to finish 7th in the country.
March 22 vs Pitt CC (W 105-73)
The No. 3 seeded Aztecs defeated the No. 15 Pitt Community College by a score of 105-73 to advance to the NJCAA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament 7th place game.
The Aztecs came out of the gate quickly with a 9-1 lead until the 10:57 mark where the Bulldogs cut the Aztec lead to 2 at 21-19.
The Aztecs countered with a thrashing run of 23-2 in six minutes to take a 23-point lead. Pima led the Bulldogs at the half 57-27.
The Aztecs’ largest lead of the game was 40 points when they led 104-64 with a little under 3 minutes to go in the game.
Sophomores Robert Wilson (11 points and 11 rebounds) and Kennedy Koehler (22 points and 10 rebounds recorded their 16th and 21st double-doubles respectively.
Also propelling the Aztecs were freshmen Cole Gerken (10 points, 3 for 4 on three-pointers) and Jordan Robinson (17 points). Sophomore Davonte Eason also scored 11 points on 5 for 6 shooting
Freshman Rashad Smith finished 4 assists shy of a triple-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists.
“I’m really proud of my team and how they’ve responded (the last two games).” said head coach Brian Peabody. “We put a lot of energy into getting this far. We wanted to represent for Pima (Community) College and the city of Tucson.”
March 21 vs St. Clair County CC (W 93-75)
The No. 3 seeded Aztecs defeated the No. 6 seeded St. Clair County Community College 93-75 to advance to the semi-finals of the NJCAA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament 7th place bracket.
The Aztecs exploded for a 13-2 run with 5:40 left in the first half to take a 35-18 lead. The Skippers were able to score five points to cut into the lead. Still, Pima led 39-29 at the end of the half.
At the 16:31 mark, the Aztec lead was cut to nine at 46-37. Pima then went on a monsterous 21-6 run to take a commanding 67-43 lead.
The closest the Skippers would get to that lead was a 16 point deficit at 76-60.
Sophomore Kennedy Koehler led the Aztecs in scoring and rebounding as he posted his 20th double-double of the season with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
All other Pima starters also scored in double figures with freshmen Rashad Smith and Jordan Robinson posting 18 and 11 points respectively and sophomores Robert Wilson and Abram Carrasco pouring in 16 and 13 points respectively.
March 19 vs Cecil College (L 81-72)
The No. 3 seeded Aztecs were upset by No. 14 Cecil College 81-72, ending the team’s hopes of becoming national champions a season after coming up one game short.
The Aztecs trailed 31-29 at halftime. They gained their first lead when sophomore Abram Carrasco made his first basket to make it 35-34 with 17:12 left in the game. Carrasco finished with 7 points on 3 of 10 shooting.
Sophomore Kennedy Koehler made a bucket to cap on an 11-2 run and take what was Pima’s biggest lead of the game at 62-55 with 6 minutes left. Koehler had 22 points and 9 rebounds.
With the game tied at 65 with 3:18 left in the game, the Seahawks went on a 7-0 run to take a lead of 72-65 with 59.1 seconds left.
From there, the Aztecs were forced to stop the clock by fouling where the Seahawks converted 10 of their last 12 free throws in the minute of play.
Robert Wilson had 7 points and 14 rebounds but was held scoreless for the last 8:50. Carrasco also didn’t score in the first half and the final 10:20 of the game.
Freshman Jordan Robinson was the only other Aztec to hit double figures in scoring with 18 points. Fellow freshman Rashad Smith had 9 points, all of them in the first half.