Bears advance to 10th straight Region I Division II Championship Game
PC outlasts 54-point effort by Smith to defeat Pima in OT in Region I Semifinals Wednesday
Phoenix College is proud to announce that the PC Men’s Basketball team has officially secured a berth in the Region I Division II Finals for the 10th consecutive season. They earned the right to advance with a thrilling 108-104 overtime victory over the 4th-seeded Pima Aztecs in the Region I Semifinals Wednesday night at “The Bears’ Den” on the PC campus. The win earns the right for the Bears to try to clinch their 6th Region I Championship in the last decade.
The semifinals matchup pitted two squads that seemed to be going in completely opposite directions, since Pima came in carrying a six-game losing skid while the Bears had coasted into the postseason with a season-long seven-game winning streak. However, it was the Aztecs who set the tone of the high-scoring game early as sophomore guard (and ACCAC Scoring Champion) Shakir Smith hit three three-point goals in the first four minutes of action to stake Pima to an 18-9 lead. The Bears-who appeared to come out of the locker room a bit tight, missing their first four shots from the field-finally began to get on track, using a 17-2 run to battle back to take a 35-27 lead. The Bears’ backcourt trio of 2014 ACCAC Freshman of the Year Brandon Brown (Cesar Chavez HS), 1st Team All-Region I/2ndTeam All-ACCAC Derreck Brooks (Desert Ridge HS) and Cameron Israel combined for 42 first-half points, including hitting 8 of the 9 treys that the Bears buried in the first half to head into the locker room at halftime with a 53-40 lead.
The Bears would score the first 3 points of the 2nd half before the Aztecs would gradually start chipping into the lead. Smith-who had 20 points in the 1st half (bolstered by six treys)-began driving inside to get his teammates involved as well as convert three-point plays for himself, and led the rally as Pima stormed back to eradicate the deficit, taking their first lead of the 2nd half with 4:10 left in regulation, 85-83. The Bears-who attempted 15 treys in the first half but only 2 in the 2nd-regrouped on offense and began working it inside to sophomores Brendon Pineda-Morales (Tolleson HS) and Joel Feigler to take a one-point lead with 1:51 left. The Aztecs missed shots on three straight possessions, allowing the Bears to expand the lead to 95-91 with 51 seconds left. However, the Bears came up short on back-to-back offensive possessions, giving Pima the ball with 29 seconds left and trailing, 96-93. The Bears’ defense-wary of Smith’s extended 3-point shooting ability-double-teamed him outside, allowing Smith to find Tyler D’Amore in the corner, who drained an open 3-pointer to tie the score. The Bears had one last shot to win the game in regulation, but Brown’s 18-footer with 2 seconds left fell off the rim, sending the teams to overtime at 96 apiece.
The Bears would regain their offensive composure in the extra session-thanks to Pineda-Morales, who made a pair of treys in the first 2:15 of OT to stake the Bears to a 102-98 cushion, and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Aztecs made three layups in the overtime (two of them by Smith), but never got closer than two points down the stretch, and Brown iced the win with a made free throw with :04.6 seconds left to provide the final margin. Smith finished his career night with a game-high 54 points for the Aztecs (13-18 overall, 8-14 ACCAC). The Bears (23-8 overall, 16-6 ACCAC) sported five different players in double figures in scoring, led by Brown (27 points & 13 assists), Pineda-Morales (26 points, 4-for-6 from 3-point range), Brooks (23 points) and Joel Feigler (17 points and 10 rebounds) as they notched their 8thstraight win.
The top-seeded Bears now host the 2nd-seeded Jegos of Tohono O’odham Community College this Friday night, February 28th, in the Region I Division II Finals at “The Bears’ Den”. The Jegos-who are making their first-ever postseason appearance of their brief, three-year men’s basketball history-advanced to the championship round by virtue of 3rd-seeded Glendale’s forfeit Wednesday of their Region I Semifinals matchup. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30PM on the PC campus (1202 West Thomas Road in Phoenix), with the winner advancing to the NJCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Tournament, which begins March 18thin Danville, Illinois. Under Region I Playoff rules, no passes are allowed, so admission prices for Friday’s game are $5 for all adults and $3 for PC students.