The Pima Community College men's basketball team (21-11) is headed to the NJCAA Division II national tournament.
The No. 2 seeded Aztecs won an instant classic over No. 1 Phoenix College (25-7)102-99 to win their first region title since 2010. It was also head coach Brian Peabody's first championship since he came to Pima in four seasons.
Free throws presented to be a big factor in the end as sophomore Deion James (Empire HS) hit a pair to make it 100-96 with 09.8 second left. After a Bears' three-pointer, they called a timeout with 04.9 seconds remaining. The Aztecs in-bound went to sophomore Emilio Acedo (Salpointe Catholic HS), who hit two more foul shots with 03.7 left. A last effort by the Bears fell short as time expired and the celebration began.
James was named the Region I, Division II championship game's Most Valuable Player after he scored 27 points and had 12 rebounds for his 19th double-double. He also went 11 for 12 from the free throw line.
"Everything was on the line. This might have been one of the greatest things I've ever witnessed," James said.
The Aztecs held on to a 51-49 lead at halftime but the Bears came out for the second half on a 10-3 run to put Pima behind 59-54. Acedo hit a three-pointer on the next trip down court and later freshman Alize Travis knocked down his own three-pointer to give Pima the lead back at 62-61.
The Aztecs and the Bears went back and forth in the second half as there were nine lead changes; eight in the second half and four ties.
Down 78-75 with 7:17 left, the Aztecs went on a 9-0 run that was capped off by a dunk from James that got the bench hyped and put Pima up 84-78.
With Pima up 90-88 after a three-pointer from Jonathan Matthews, the Bears called timeout with 2:43 left. Sophomore Jacob Anastasi (Cactus Shadows HS) made a basket and after a couple of possessions, Acedo came through in the clutch with another three-pointer to make it a seven-point advantage at 95-88 with 1:01 left on the clock.
In the first half, the Bears started the game on a 13-2 run as the Aztecs made their first field goal three minutes into the game. Pima went on a 14-3 run and tied it at 16-16. The Bears held a slight lead for much of the first half and were up by as much as seven points at 38-31.
Travis hit a three-pointer to give Pima their first lead of the game at 43-42 with 3:52 left in the half. It turned out to be part of a 13-2 run to put the Aztecs ahead 51-44.
Acedo helped James carry the load as he also dropped 27 points on 8 for 11 shooting which included 6 for 9 from three-point range. Freshman Isaiah Murphy (Cienega HS) put in 20 points off the bench while Anastasi had a double-double of his own with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Travis contributed with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists.
The Aztecs will compete in the NJCAA Division II national tournament in Danville, IL on Mar. 21-25.
PCC 51 51 102
PC 49 50 99