(Port Huron, MI) The Pima Community College women’s basketball team (26-7) took the court for its first game at the NJCAA Division II National Tournament on Tuesday against North Central Missouri College (23-7).
The No. 7 ranked Aztecs trailed for much of the game but took the lead in the final 1:20and held on to beat the No. 10 seeded Pirates 69-66.
The Pirates took the lead at 64-63 but sophomore Luisa Chavez (Rio Rico HS) found fellow sophomore Angel Addleman (Palo Verde HS) on an outlet down court for the layup to put the Aztecs ahead for the final time. Addleman hit a pair of free throws to make it 67-64. The Pirates also converted on two free throws with 47.4 second left on the clock.
Addleman kept the ball in her hands and found a defensive breakdown in the paint and drove to the basket for an easy layup with 20.2 on the clock. The Pirates inbounded at mid-court with 11.6 seconds remaining and sophomore Torrance Begay (Page HS) swatted the ball out of bounds. The Pirates kept possession under the basket and Ianara Morbidoni forced a shot at the top of the key that hit the back of the rim as time expired.
Down 60-57 with 6:15 left in regulation, the Aztecs went on a 6-0 run to take the lead. Sophomore Matehya Aberle (Holbrook HS) scored to cut the deficit down to one point. Addleman hit a pair of free throws to give Pima a 61-60 lead; their first lead since the 5:31mark in the first quarter when they led 13-12. Chavez then sunk a couple of free throws to make it 63-60 with 4:59 left.
In the early minutes of the second quarter, the Pirates went on a 12-1 run in five minutes to put the Aztecs down 36-22. It was their biggest deficit of the game. The Aztecs chipped away as they closed out the second quarter on a 12-5 run that was capped off by Chavez’s bank-shot three-pointer in the final seconds. The Aztecs were still behind 41-34 at the break.
“We had a rough start but we just kept chipping away and that’s what we told each other in the huddle, just ‘we got to get defensive stops,’” Addleman said. “We needed offensive rebounds and we needed to get the hand out of the shoes because they were hitting a lot in the first half. Mainly defensive stops and moving the ball were our adjustments, getting it inside because that’s our strong suit.”
The Aztecs continued their momentum in the third quarter as they went on an 8-2 run to cut it to a one-point game at 43-42. They tied it at 48-48 but the Pirates went on a 6-0 run to close out the third quarter as Pima fell behind again at 54-48.
“I’m real proud of the kids because any team at nationals is going to be good,” Pima women’s basketball coach Todd Holthaus said. “Seeding is a number, it doesn’t really reflect how good a team is. North Central Missouri was sophomore laden with kids who had been at nationals last year. This is something that they’re used to, and ready for and they gave us everything they could in the first half. They hit six 3-pointers, it got us behind, but you know what, the personality of this team came through in the end. That’s all I asked them for; just keeping playing defense, make it tough on them. We’re a little bit deeper so we could get into their bench a little bit and I felt we were a little frustrated at the end and we pulled away just in time.”
Holthaus reflected on adjustments made at halftime. One of the priorities was Pirates’ guard Nora Ford, who finished with 28 points but went just 3 for 10 with 10 points and no three-pointers in the second half.
“Angel did a great job on #12 (Nora Ford) in the second half. She’s a good player and she got loose on us in the first half. I thought Angel took the challenge like Angel always does and kind of clapped down in the second half and made every bucket tough.”
Addleman finished with a team-high 20 points on 6 for 13 shooting and was a flawless 8 for 8 from the free throw line. She also added eight rebounds.
The inside presence of Begay and Aberle were also difference makers as Begay posted a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds while Aberle added 14 points and five rebounds.
“I told the girls, our strength is in the paint,” Holthaus said. “We can shoot the three, but we’re better at shooting the three when we pound in the paint and kind of soften up the interior a bit. Let Matehya go to work, let Torrance go to work, let Dom (Dominique Acosta) go to work.”
Chavez closed out the game with 12 points and six rebounds. She was 6 for 6 from the foul line. The Aztecs finished 19 for 26 at the free throw line.
The win gave coach Todd Holthaus his 500th career coaching victory. He is 340-152 in 16 seasons at Pima and was 160-64 at Flowing Wells High School.
The Aztecs will play No. 2 seeded CCBC Essex on Wednesday. Game time is set for 8:00 p.m. (ET), 5:00 p.m. in Tucson. Catch the live stream on the NJCAA Network.
Press Release courtesy of Pima Aztec Athletics – Raymond Suarez