By NATE MARTINEZ
The Pima College women’s basketball team advanced to the finals of the 2022 Region I, Division II tournament after beating No. 3-seeded Scottsdale Community College 54-45 in a highly physical game.
“The main thing was we stayed composed; they were out of control,” guard Melissa Simmons said. “Family-wise, we stayed close with each other, (we had) great communication. We stayed together as a group from first quarter to fourth quarter.”
The Aztecs played their second game without injured starting guard Angel Addlemann (Palo Verde grad), but other guards such as Melissa Simmons, Luisa Chavez (Rio Rico) and Priscila Varela stepped up in her absence.
“I just felt like they did such a good job, collectively and sticking together, having each other’s backs and just getting through it together,” said Pima coach Todd Holhaus on how they adjusted without Addlemann. “It wasn’t really any one person. It was more of a collective effort, so I was real proud of that.”
Up 50-45 with two minutes to play in the second half, Pima would not let the Artichokes score another basket to close out the game.
Forward Keara Felix grabbed an offensive rebound and made the layup to increase the lead 52-45. Felix then hit one of two free-throws on the next possession to make it 53-45.
Chavez then made the biggest defensive play of the night. A Scottsdale player attempted to inbound the ball, but Chavez’s pressure caused a 5-second violation and it went right back to Pima.
Forward Matehya Aberle hit one more free throw to put the Aztecs up 54-45.
Pima (20-10) and Scottsdale played neck and neck with each other for the entirety of the first half. The Artichokes ended the first quarter with a 12-11 lead.
Pima had no trouble tying with Scottsdale for the second quarter, but the team struggled to gain the lead. Its break finally came with 20 seconds left in the half.
Aberle moved past a defender and made the layup to put the Aztecs on top 24-22 before the break. Both teams shot an almost equal number of field goal attempts in the first half.
Pima went 34 percent on 32 shots attempted from the field, while Scottsdale went 35 percent on 31 shots attempted. Both teams made the same amount of 3-point shots with two.
The third and fourth quarters were largely similar to the first and second. Pima managed to outscore Scottsdale in the third quarter, but only by a slim margin of 15-13.
Pima controlled the fourth quarter and outscored Scottsdale 15-10 to finish the game. Free throws were crucial as the Aztecs went 5 for 8 from the line compared to zero attempts for Scottsdale.
“Every time we took a timeout, we just gathered together and just talked about what we needed to do, what we needed to improve and turned around and fixed it,” Simmons said. “I just think everybody collectively stayed on the same page. We had a mistake and we fixed it. (We) just continue to keep going.”
Simmons had a team-high 13 points, going 3 for 7 from 3-point range on the night. She added 5 assists and 3 rebounds to her total. Felix nearly had a double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Jaslyn Booker (Buena ) led the Aztecs in rebounds with 10. Guard Jaden Leslie came off the bench and scored 10 points.
Pima will take on No. 1 Mesa Community College in the Region I, Division II finals at 7 p.m. Saturday in Mesa. This will be the 12th finals meeting between the two teams in 14 seasons.
This season, the two teams split their regular season games.
“Freshman year, we beat South (Mountain) here (Pima West gym), went to Mesa and got a fat W,” Simmons said. “(We) ripped down their nets, got some rings. It’s gonna be crazy, It’s gonna be a packed gym. I think we’re ready. We’ve been practicing all week for this.
“I believe in my teammates 100 percent. I believe in my coaches. I think we’re ready; we got this.”