Matador men take care of Phoenix College
Two teams are waiting for the Arizona Western men's basketball team to slip up.
The Matadors let Cochise and Mesa down Saturday, taking care of Phoenix College 67-59 to hold on to their playoff seed heading into the final week of the regular season.
“I think we realize it's a tight race, but we're just trying to win the next game,” AWC coach Charles Harral said. “But if we win the rest of the games this year, we'll for sure host at least one playoff game.”
The win keeps the Matadors tied with Central Arizona atop the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference standings and a game ahead of both Mesa and Cochise for the second seed in the NJCAA Region I Division I tournament. AWC closes the year at Division II South Mountain Tuesday, then goes to Mesa Friday in the finale.
The Matadors were in a similar situation last year, dropping a late-season game at South Mountain that helped keep the Matadors out of the top seed.
“It was a tough game for us last year there — we got beat,” Harral said.
But first the Matadors (23-5 overall, 18-2 ACCAC) had to get past the Bears (17-11, 11-9), who entered the night having already secured the No. 1 seed in the Division II tournament. The Bears had some early leads, the last coming at 18-17 after the ACCAC's leading scorer, Chris Solomon, made one of two free throws en route to finishing with just six points in less than 20 minutes, in part due to foul trouble.
With 11:40 left in the game, Anthony Alston was starting to drive the Matadors up court when Solomon tripped him. Solomon — who played for the Matadors in the 2008-09 season — kicked wildly. Solomon was not ejected, but coach Matt Gordon did not put him back in the game. Alston had to be separated by teammates from Solomon and was also called for a technical.
“I thought we handled it well. We have a mature group,” Harral said. “We have good guys on this team and I thought they handled it pretty well.”
AWC's Carlos Perez made 10 of his 18 shots for 20 points and added 12 rebounds, as the Matadors had a 45-31 edge on the boards. Darien Walker and Marvin Whitt each scored 11, while Wade Shugrue made all three of his 3-point attempts and had two blocks to go with his nine points.
“It was kind of sloppy the first half. It was much better the second half,” Harral said. “I thought the difference in the game was Carlos — 20 points, 12 rebounds, he was hitting his jumper from the corner, being active around the basket. ... Then I thought Wade Shugrue came in early and made some big shots for us, stretching the zone.”