TUCSON (Pima Athletics)
The Pima Community College women's basketball team (27-7) completed a second half comeback and advanced to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament Final Four on Wednesday.
The No. 3 seeded Aztecs defeated No. 6 seed Cape Fear Community College 90-82, putting an end to the Sea Devils' 26-game winning streak.
With the game tied at 62-62 sophomore Hayley Pryor (Basha HS) hit a jumper to put Pima up 64-62 with 6:53 left. Sophomore Gabby Banales (Cienega HS) stepped back and hit a three-pointer and freshman Sydni Stallworth (Palo Verde HS) hit her first jumper of the game after starting out 0-for-12. Freshman Denesia Smith (Cienega HS) hit a pair of free throws to cap off a 7-2 run that put the Aztecs up 71-65. Cape Fear kept coming back and made the game close but Pima held off a lead change.
Freshman Jahnae Martin (Desert Vista HS) made a huge play on defense with 2:58 left in the game. She took a charge inside the paint which put Sea Devils' guard Chrystall Jerome out of the game. Jerome gave the Aztecs fits with her quickness towards the basket. Pima led 80-75 at that point. Pima went 6-for-8 from the foul line in the final minute to close it out.
After trailing most of the first half, the Aztecs slowly cut into the Sea Devils' lead. Down 50-45, Pima went on a 10-0 run to take a 55-50 advantage. Down 56-55, Smith drained a three-pointer to put Pima back up 58-56. The Aztecs led 60-56 after the third quarter.
The Aztecs fell behind in the first half and trailed by as much as 14 points at 40-26 with under three minutes to go. They finished off the final two minutes on a 10-1 run which included a buzzer beater shot by Taylor Blue (Peoria HS) on Pima's third attempt under the basket. Pima trailed 41-36 at halftime.
Stallworth finished with a game-high 21 points despite going 2-for-15 from the field. She was 17-for-18 from the free throw line and also had five assists and four steals. Banales finished with 19 points on 5-for-8 shooting; including 5-for-7 from the three-point line. She was also 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Blue and fellow sophomore Shalise Fernander posted double-doubles. Fernander had 18 points and 11 rebounds, three blocks and two steals while Blue finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Smith finished with 14 points and four assists.
The Aztecs will play Illinois Central College (31-4) in the semifinals on Friday at 6:00 p.m. (4:00 p.m. Tucson time).