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AWC women ready for Cochise
The last time the Arizona Western women's basketball team played well — according to its coach, anyway — was in a win at Cochise.
Since then, the Matadors have gone 1-2 to limp into the NJCAA Region I Division I playoffs as the No. 3 seed, earning a return trip to Douglas to face the Apaches at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“We walked out of Cochise feeling pretty good about ourselves, but ever since then we just haven't been able to put it together on the floor,” coach Patrick Cunningham said. “I'm not sure if our expectations are that teams are just going to kind of phone it in. We've tried to make them understand that every team we've been playing are playoff teams and you have to come to play every night.”
The Matadors (22-8 overall, 14-6 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) won that Feb. 13 contest against the Apaches 63-56. That was after Cochise (25-5, 16-4) won 69-38 in Yuma in January. Since the win, the Matadors got a 58-56 home win against Phoenix College, then lost last week at South Mountain and Mesa — all three of those games against Division II teams.
“We haven't played good since we played there last time,” Cunningham said. “We just haven't played. Whatever that reason is, it's in the past. Our mindset is we've been there, we've played well there, so whatever we've gone through the last three games is behind us. It's a one-game season.”
It's been an injury-riddled season for the Matadors, who missed their top returner Lisette Longomo for a big chunk of it. She averaged 7.4 points per game, fifth on the team. Samantha Wallace leads the Matadors with 17.1 points and 11 rebounds per game, while Emilie Muanandibu is second in both (11.1, 10.8). Wallace was first team on the all-ACCAC team and the all-Region I squad; Muanandibu was second on the ACCAC team and third on the Region I team.
It's not just Longomo going through injuries for the Matadors. Wallace hurt her ankle in the finale against Mesa. She didn't practice Monday and wasn't expected to practice today.
“This ankle is not going to keep from playing Wednesday,” Wallace said. “That's why I didn't practice (Monday). Therapy, therapy then hopefully I'll be playing Wednesday, praise to God.”
The winner of the game will face No. 1 Central Arizona in Coolidge on Friday. The Matadors have reached the region final four straight years.
“We're in a position where if we play well, we have a chance to advance,” Cunningham said. “But we have to play well. It's on us.”