Marvin Whitt backpedaled, basking as his teammates congratulated after making a 3-pointer that gave the Arizona Western men's basketball team its biggest lead with less than six minutes left.
But the Matadors had little to celebrate afterward, going the next 3:20 without a field goal as Central Arizona rallied to a 72-64 win on Wednesday.
“We got behind, we came back, but when you dig yourself that big a hole, it's hard to overcome,” AWC coach Charles Harral said.
The Matadors (11-4 overall, 6-1 Arizona Community College Athletic Association) had won 14 straight against the Vaqueros (11-3, 7-1), including the NJCAA Region I Division I Championship Game last season. But after Whitt's 3 on Wednesday, the Matadors only made one field goal the rest of the way. They had a similar scoring drought in the first quarter, as a 10-0 Vaquero run spanned 4:38 and opened an 18-9 lead they would hold well into the second half.
Defensively, the Matadors didn't have an answer for Deandre Mathieu and DesJuan Mathieu, who combined for 45 points for CAC.
“I think they were playing really good,” Harral said. “They ran an isolation offense that I'm going to have to account for. Mathieu is really good at driving to the basket, so we gave him a little bit of room and he made some shots that he doesn't normally consistently make.”
Whitt's 3 put the Matadors up 56-52, but Newton answered back with a quick field goal. With 4:20 left, CAC took the lead for good on a Newton layup, then added another one 30 seconds later for a 61-58 lead. After Tanner Clayton hit a pair of free throws — his only points of the game on 0 for 6 shooting — Newton added a 3.
Newton finished with 17 points, while Mathieu added 28 and nine rebounds.
Whitt had 22 for the Matadors, while Aaseem Dixon, Darien Walker and Keywhon Powns had 10 each. Clayton had 10 rebounds but struggled on offense.
“He played pretty hard, but he couldn't get those open shots to fall that we've kind of been living off of,” Harral said. “We didn't get any offense off him except two free throws.”