Defense proves critical as Aztecs men's basketball sets another Pima record; lock up No. 2 seed for Regionals

The sophomores were recognized before the game here with their coaches, family and friends. (Pima players Left to right): Isaiah Murphy, Keegan Biggers, Justin Bessard, Ilunga Moise and Keven Biggs. Photo by Raymond Suarez
The sophomores were recognized before the game here with their coaches, family and friends. (Pima players Left to right): Isaiah Murphy, Keegan Biggers, Justin Bessard, Ilunga Moise and Keven Biggs. Photo by Raymond Suarez

The Pima Community College men's basketball team (26-3, 18-3 in ACCAC) set another mark in program history on Saturday after surviving Mesa Community College (15-13, 13-8) on Saturday at the West Campus Gymnasium.

Sophomore Justin Bessard forced a missed lay-up inside the paint as time expired and the No. 8 ranked Aztecs defeated the Thunderbirds 83-82. The win set a new Pima school record in ACCAC conference wins with 18. According to Pima archives, the previous record was set in the 1979-80 season when the team finished with a 17-4 conference record.

The Aztecs will be the No. 2 seed in the Region I, Division II Tournament in a couple weeks. Phoenix College will be the No. 1 seed.

The Aztecs and the Thunderbirds went back and forth all game as there were 12 lead changes and six ties. The biggest lead for either team was six points.

The Aztecs trailed 71-70 with 7:49 left in the game but took back the lead with a 6-0 run in two minutes to make it 76-71. The Thunderbirds tied it at 79-79 with 2:07 left but the Aztecs never relinquished the lead.

Sophomore Isaiah Murphy (Cienega HS) scored a team-high 19 points. He hit a three-pointer with 8:35 left in the first half to surpass 1,000 career points for his career at Pima. He also had seven rebounds in the game.

Bessard finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds (six offensive). He went 6 for 9 from the field. Sophomore Ilunga Moise (Raymond S. Kellis HS) had 15 points as he went 4 for 8 from the field and 7 for 8 from the free throw line. Freshman Abram Carrasco (Cholla HS) scored 14 points and had four assists off the bench.

The Aztecs swept the head-to-head meetings with the Thunderbirds this season. They won 106-70 last month in Mesa.

Before the game, sophomores Justin Bessard, Keegan Biggers (Tucson HS), Keven Biggs (Cienega HS), Ilunga Moise (Raymond S. Kellis HS), Isaiah Murphy (Cienega HS), and Alize Travis were recognized.

The Aztecs will close out the regular season on Tuesday when they play at Arizona Western College in Yuma. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

MCC     42     40     82
PCC      44     39     83