SIGNAL PEAK - Defense paved the way for an impressive start to conference play by the Central Arizona College women’s basketball team.
The Vaqueras held 16th-ranked Eastern Arizona to 18 field goals and 30 percent shooting in Wednesday night’s 74-56 victory at the George Young Activity Center.
“Our saving grace is always going to be defense,” CAC coach Denise Cardenas said. “We’re emphasizing it more than we ever have.”
Ahead 29-24 at halftime, the Vaqueras (4-0, 1-0 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference), outscored the Gila Monsters 55-32 in the final two periods. Many of those points came on fast-break layups.
“We tire teams out with our running,” Cardenas said, “and it showed in the fourth quarter” when CAC went 10 for 18 from the floor in pulling away with a 23-14 burst.
Denali Hughes led Central with 19 points, followed by Senya Rabouin with 14 and Shalyse Smith with 12.
The Vaqueras trailed by six points in the early going before going ahead to stay at 11-10 on a three-point play by Hughes with 3:27 remaining in the first quarter. That was the lone lead change in the game.
Central was up 19-13 after one period and 51-42 after three.
“November is all about grittiness and toughness,” Cardenas said. “We’re just trying to get better. We have a long way to go, but we wanted to get this one for sure and protect our home court.”
Eastern (6-1, 0-1 ACCAC) trailed by as many as eight points in the first half. The Gila Monsters twice trimmed the CAC’s lead to one point in the third quarter, the last time at 41-40 with 1:54 remaining.
After that, it was pretty much all Vaqueras.
Central closed the third by outscoring the Gila Monsters 10-2, starting with another three-point play by Hughes. The lead reached double digits for the first time at 53-42 on a Hughes’ basket to begin the fourth-quarter scoring.
Reyelle Frazier converted a three-point play with 4:14 left to give the Vaqueras a 66-47 lead, and CAC went up by 21 on three occasions prior to the final buzzer.
The Vaqueras shot 59.2 percent in the second half, going 18 for 34, after making just 10 of 37 shots in the first two quarters (27 percent).
They converted 27 Eastern turnovers into 19 points and had a 16-11 advantage in second-chance points.
Central went 8 for 8 on free throws in the second half and 16 for 20 overall.
Jasmine Singleton provided 14 points and Ajae Yoakum had 12 for the Gila Monsters.
Eastern made 8 of 27 shots in the first half and 10 of 33 in the second. The Gila Monsters were 0 for 14 on three-pointers.
Eastern scored 12 points off CAC’s 22 turnovers and made 20 of 31 free throws.
The victory was the Vaqueras’ second straight over a ranked team. They knocked off No. 23 Southern Idaho on Saturday at Mesa Community College, outscoring the Eagles 27-15 in the fourth quarter.
A little too close for comfort, perhaps, but the Central Arizona College men’s basketball team came away with a 94-90 victory over Eastern Arizona on Wednesday night at the George Young Activity Center.
The Vaqueros twice owned leads of 20 points and were up by 14 at 85-71 with 2:41 remaining following an 11-4 run. The Gila Monsters would not go away, however, connecting for five of their 11 three-pointers in the final two minutes.
“We lost our concentration,” CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said. “We went away from what was working and they took advantage.”
Central is 5-0 on the season after winning its Arizona Community College Athletic Conference opener. Eastern fell to 4-2 overall and 0-1 in ACCAC play.
“I’m proud of what we’ve done so far, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Aaron said. “We’re going in the right direction. For us, it’s going to be a matter of creating continuity and maintaining a high level of consistency.”
Ahead 45-33 at halftime, the Vaqueros started the second half with a 12-4 run -- capped by Keyshaun Bolen’s basket that extended the lead to 57-37 with 15:51 to play. A basket by Simeon Richardson-Collins made it 59-39 with 13:56 remaining.
“We took advantage of mismatches and our defense was really solid,” Aaron said. “We were able to hold them to one shot and we cleaned up on the boards.”
The Gila Monsters scored on five consecutive possessions to climb back into contention, with Reyce Allen providing eight of their 12 points during that stretch. Bryce Ware’s basket reduced CAC’s lead to 70-59 with 8:19 left.
Then came a 6-0 burst by the Gila Monsters that made the score 74-65 with 6:20 remaining. Each of their three baskets in the run followed a Central turnover.
Two free throws by Allen trimmed the Vaqueros’ lead to 74-67 with 5:50 to play.
John White Jr. made a three-pointer for CAC to ignite a surge that boosted the margin to 14 points.
But Eastern countered by scoring on seven of its final eight possessions, getting a pair of three-pointers from Ware and one apiece from Corey Boston, Mohammed Niang and Marques Sales II to make things a little more interesting than they probably should have been.
Five players scored in double figures for the Vaqueros. Brahjon Thompson led the way with 19 points, followed by Jamison Epps with 18, Richardson-Collins and Brenton Woods with 16 apiece and Raishun Wilson with 15.
Thompson made all three of his three-pointers in the first half and had 13 points at the break. Richardson-Collins provided 10 first-half points.
Epps and Woods both scored 10 points in the second half, with Woods making 6 of 7 free throws.
All of Allen’s team-high 20 points for the Gila Monsters came in the second half. Boston and Niang both finished with 19 points, and Ware scored 17.