The Pima Community College men's basketball team (31-4) escaped an unbelievable battle in the NJCAA Division II semifinals game on Friday but the Aztecs came out on top and are headed to the championship game.
The No. 2 seeded Aztecs defeated No. 11 Delta College (MI) 102-94 to earn their spot. It will be the top two seeds of the tournament waging war as the Aztecs play No. 1 Triton College (IL) for the crown on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (CDT), 5:30 p.m. Tucson time.
After seeing their lead cut in half to 82-79, the Aztecs turned to freshman Abram Carrasco (Cholla HS), who hit a three-pointer to get the lead back to six at 85-79 with 4:20 left. The Pioneers cut the lead again to two points at 85-83 but sophomore Isaiah Murphy (Cienega HS) scored on a drive to the basket and Carrasco drained another three-pointer to make it 90-83 with 3:00 left.
Carrasco hit a pair of free throws and sophomore Justin Bessard checked-in and scored under the basket to make it 94-85 with 2:10 remaining.
Up 95-89, sophomore Alize Travis made 5 of 6 free throws in 20 seconds and grabbed three straight defensive rebounds to help seal it.
The Aztecs trailed early but took their first lead at 9-7 and led for the final 16:52 of the first half. The Aztecs led by as much as 10 points on two occasions. They scored the final six points of the first half to take a 50-43 lead at the break.
"This is an unbelievable feeling, we've been working so hard all season and we've been talking about this. For it to finally be here is a dream come true," Murphy said. "Delta is a hard working team and they play hard. We had to come out and fight for this one. We had to stay poised the whole game."
Travis fell short of a triple-double as he finished with 21 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds. He went 10 for 14 from the foul line. Murphy scored 20 points and went 3 for 6 from three-point range and 9 for 12 from the free throw line. Sophomore Ilunga Moise (Raymond S. Kellis HS) finished with 14 points on 5 for 7 shooting and eight rebounds.
The bench came through again for the Aztecs as it scored 35 points. Freshman Jeremiah Bailey led the way with 16 points on 5 for 8 shooting. He also had eight rebounds and two steals.
Carrasco scored nine points in two and half minutes and finished the game with 15 points on 4 for 7 shooting. Freshman Robert Wilson (Salpointe Catholic HS) scored four points but was huge on the boards with nine rebounds.
This is a tight-knit group, they love each other and I'm so happy for them," Pima coach Brian Peabody said. "It was a bad match-up for us. They went small and took our bigger guys off the dribble. There were a lot of fouls both ways. I'm taking any win at this point in time.
"When we brought Bram (Carrasco) in, I thought he was a big boost off the bench, hit a couple big three's for us. He played really well and handled the ball."
The Aztecs out-rebounded the Pioneers 50-39 and were 37 for 52 from the foul line. There were 82 free throws shot in the game between the two teams.
DC 43 51 94
PCC 50 52 102