The Pima Community College women's basketball team (23-8) played catch-up for most of its game against Mesa Community College (22-8) but the Aztecs produced a late surge only to fall short in the end.
The No. 2 seeded Aztecs failed to repeat as Region I, Division II champions as they lost to the No. 1 seeded Thunderbirds 74-72. Mesa defeated the Aztecs three times this season by a combined seven points.
After Mesa's Tori Lloyd went 1 for 2 at the foul line, the Aztecs had a final chance with 3.7 seconds left. Stallworth brought the ball down but was trapped by three Thunderbird defenders on the right side. She got it to freshman Alliyah Bryant (Mesquite HS), who passed off to Smith. She found sophomore Moana Hala'ufia (Marana HS) but her shot attempt hit the backboard as time expired.
Down 70-65, Hala'ufia hit a pair of free throws. After a Mesa turnover, sophomore Denesia Smith (Cienega HS) drained a three-pointer to tie it 70-70. Hala'ufia forced a turnover and after a missed shot, sophomore Sydni Stallworth (Palo Verde HS) grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to put Pima ahead 72-70 with 2:05 left. It was their first lead since 10-8 in the first quarter.
The Aztecs trailed 54-36 in the third quarter but went on a 16-6 run that carried into the early part of the fourth quarter to cut it to 60-52. Bryant hit a couple of three-pointers during that stretch and Stallworth was 6 for 6 from the free throw line.
In the first half, the Thunderbirds took a double digit lead after going on a 17-2 run to make it 21-10. Pima trailed 46-29 at halftime.
The Mesa bench outscored the Aztecs bench 32-9 for the game. The Aztecs shot 33.3 percent from the field and were 4 for 15 from three-point range.
Stallworth finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. She went 6 for 22 from the field but was 10 for 12 from the free throw line.
Sophomore Bree Cates finished with 15 points while Smith contributed with 12 points, four assists and two steals. Sophomore Erin Peterson (Catalina Foothills HS) finished with eight points and nine rebounds and Hala'ufia grabbed 14 rebounds and had six points.
This was the eighth time in nine years the Aztecs and Thunderbirds had met for the Region I, Division II championship. The home team has won each meeting.
The women's basketball program had its sixth 20-plus win season in coach Todd Holthaus' 10 seasons at the helm. He won his 200th game earlier this season.
PCC 12 17 21 22 72
MCC 23 23 14 14 74