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AWC women sneak one past Phoenix College
It's not always who deserves to win, according to AWC women's basketball coach Patrick Cunningham. It's who has the most points.
On Saturday, it worked in his team's favor.
The Matadors held off Phoenix College 58-56 at The House in a game the AWC coach said the Matadors didn't deserve to win.
“Phoenix played their butts off and deserved to win,” Cunningham said. “But ‘deserve' don't have much to do with it. We had more points than they did.”
Both teams entered Saturday having already clinched playoff berths — AWC (22-6, 14-4 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) in the NJCAA Region I Division I tournament, Phoenix (13-15, 6-12) in the Division II tourney. The Matadors are chasing Cochise for the No. 2 seed and a first-round home game in the first round. They trail the Apaches by a game, but have the tiebreaker according to Cunningham and still play power Central Arizona.
“This will get us focused into two very big road games,” Cunningham said. “We're not out of it if we lose, but man, we're in the best position we can possibly be in if we win them both.”
AWC trailed the Bears 56-55 after a 3-point shot by Daesha Jackson with 1:12 left. It took only seven seconds for Samantha Wallace to answer back for the Matadors. They still led 57-56 after Lisette Longomo missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw situation with 39 seconds left.
After running the clock down, Antoinette Miller drove to the basket, but Jacy Pagala drew the charge, Wallace made a free throw to pad the lead out, and Miller missed a running jumper in the lane as time expired.
“(Pagala) gets called for a foul, she's not going to shy away,” Cunningham said. “I thought that was a legitimate as it gets and it's a hard-nosed defensive play made by a hard-nosed defensive player.”
Miller had been living at the free throw line, going 7-for-9 from the charity stripe. Cunningham said he was glad to see a call go the Matadors' way.
“We had been pointing it out all night and they finally caught it,” Cunningham said. “It doesn't matter when they call it, but the timing was good. We were given a gift tonight. We need to take that gift, tuck it away. We're going to have to really earn the next two.”
Miller scored 21 points in the game, 17 in the second half. Wallace (28) and Imari Lyons (16) scored 44 of AWC's 58 points. Emilie Muanandibu grabbed 13 rebounds while Wallace had 14.
The Bears had separate eight-point leads in the first half. The Matadors held the Bears without a field goal for a 7:14 stretch overlapping the first and second halves, but suffered a 4:37 scoreless streak of their own. An 8-0 run gave the Matadors a 49-43 lead with 6:35 left.
The Matadors were coming off what Cunningham said was their biggest win of the year in Cochise after the Apaches romped the Matadors in Yuma earlier this season. AWC closes the season against two more DII playoff teams, South Mountain and Mesa.
“You come off your biggest win of the year, and it's hard to gauge what goes through their mind,” Cunningham said. “They don't understand the teams we're playing, the next two as well, are all in the playoffs. They're battling for seeds, and those game are extremely important. They know beating us puts them in position. ... We get everybody's best, and this is the time of year games have extra meaning.”