Rough ending for Matadors
PRESCOTT - In a game fitting of the championship title, the Arizona Western men's basketball team played toe-to-toe with one of the most talented teams in the country for 40 minutes. Unfortunately the game lasted 45.
Yavapai's high-powered offense took control in overtime Friday as the Roughriders outlasted a determined Matadors squad for the NJCAA Region I championship, 105-97, at Yavapai College in Prescott.
Yavapai's J.R. Reed hit a three-pointer to start the extra period and all the momentum seemed to shift to the Roughriders (27-5). The Matadors never recovered and were outscored 20-12 in overtime.
"We put ourselves in position to win," AWC coach Kelly Green said. "It's a game of mistakes and we made them in overtime."
Yavapai moves on to the NJCAA national tournament, while AWC's season comes to a close.
"We just folded like everyone expected us to," lone sophomore Luis Marquez said. "It just happened later that they expected."
Yavapai hit three three-pointers in overtime and got three free throws from Reed when he was fouled shooting another three-pointer.
"When J.R. hit that three I knew we were going to win," said Yavapai's Akeem Price, who had 28 points, including six three-pointers in the second half. "We're the clutchest team in ACCAC history."
The overtime period was a huge letdown from the way the Matadors (21-12) had played during the initial 40 minutes. With four freshmen on the court the entire second half, AWC never looked scared of the magnitude of the game nor the screaming capacity crowd.
"This hurts, but we feel good about the way we played," said DeMario Butler, who finished with 28 points and six rebounds to lead AWC. "Nobody can take that away."
AWC took an 85-83 lead on Renato Cesar's baby hook in the lane with 1:11 left in regulation, but Yavapai's Bryson Krueger tied it up with a pair of free throws.
The Matadors dodged a pair of bullets from there.
With 2.6 seconds left, AWC's Robert Hines was set to inbound the ball from underneath his own hoop. When he tried to find Marquez near halfcourt, the ball went out-of-bounds and Yavapai had possession. After a timeout they got the ball to Krueger, but his shot was blocked by Butler and AWC had another chance for the buzzer-beater with 1.6 seconds on the clock. This time Hines' pass was intercepted by Krueger at halfcourt and his miracle shot nearly fell through.
The loss was especially hard to take for Marquez, who was playing in his final game in the crimson and gold.
"This is not the way I hoped to go out," said a red-eyed Marquez after logging 43 minutes. "This isn't how any sophomore should go out."
The first half was a game of runs as Yavapai opened an even contest with a 22-7 run to take a 41-28 lead. But AWC answered with a 16-4 run to close the half and trail by just one, 45-44, at the break.
"We came to compete," Green said. "We took every punch they handed out and returned some of our own."
Hines finished with 16 points and five assists, while point guard Luis Pulido scored 14 points. The Brazilian duo of Cesar and Fernando Malaman had 12 each.
Krueger had 20 points and Richardson added 18 and nine assists.
"We came a long way since the beginning," Pulido said. "We're going to be a hell of a team next year."
Chris Gabel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6883.