SIGNAL PEAK — The Central Arizona College Vaqueros have had an uphill battle to climb all season, with just six players on the roster, finding fresh legs and getting rest for the starters is hard to come by.
That lack of depth proved detrimental to CAC in their Wednesday night game against the Eastern Arizona Gila Monsters, losing 58-46 and dropping their third straight game.
Despite the Vaqueros’ bench challenges, the team put together a tightly contested first half against the Gila Monsters, going on scoring runs resulting in small leads throughout the first half.
Freshman guards Chandler Burnett and Kobe Bratton led the team in the first half, scoring six points each.
Burnett had a hot hand in the first half, scoring his six points off of two three-point shots.
The Vaqueros went into the second half only down by one point, but immediately started the half slow against the opposing Gila Monsters.
However, the Vaqueros got their legs under them and found a way to take a lead with 6:30 left in the game.
Ultimately, the lead would be short-lived, as the Gila Monsters showed why they are one of the best junior college teams in the state.
Eastern Arizona took control of the game in the final few minutes, finding holes in the CAC defense and causing the Vaqueros to make mental errors and turn the ball over.
“It’s tough, I feel like we executed well in that first half, guys played hard, but things got to us in that second half,” Vaqueros head coach Jesse Brown said. “(Eastern Arizona) went on runs and we just couldn’t respond. It was not for a lack of effort, I think it was more effort than anything.”
Although the team did not secure the win, they saw a solid performance from freshman Jude Lambert. The 6-foot-5 guard from London, England scored 12 points in the game and consistently made plays for his team.
“He is a great young man, when he is aggressive, he is a really great basketball player,” Brown said. “When he tries to do too much, he will make some mistakes, but you’re talking about a true freshman. It’s just about encouraging him to put his head down and go. He is a really explosive athlete, he is going to continue to grow and get even better.”
After the loss, Brown said that the message to his team was to just “keep playing hard.” Although he addressed the challenges of having such a small roster, he cares more about keeping the team’s mentality in the right place.
“It’s tough when you’re losing games, but I have been doing this for 17 years, so hopefully I will be able to get through to them,” he said. “If we learn from the experience of all of these battles and learn from it, we will get a lot better and start winning.”
The Vaqueros will hit the floor again on Saturday, hoping to end their losing streak against Pima Community College.