Pima hoops programs headed in right direction

2014-03-11T00:00:00Z Pima hoops programs headed in right directionBy Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Both Pima basketball teams’ seasons ended sooner than they would have liked.

The men in their first playoff game, the women in their second.

But overall, Pima’s still got to be pretty happy with the direction of the programs. In fact, this year the teams combined to go 33-30 record, good for a .524 win percentage. That’s their best combined mark since 2010.

The men’s team in particular took a big step this year. First-year head coach Brian Peabody inherited a team that had gone 15-72 over the last three years, including last year’s season-ending 18-game losing streak.

But this year, the Aztecs went 13-18 with stars Shakir Smith and Murphy Gershman — and made the Region I, Division II semifinals before losing to Phoenix College in overtime on Feb. 26.

“One of the goals we set out at the beginning of the season was to make the playoffs,” Peabody said before the postseason began. “We only made it one time in the last 10 years. We would’ve like to be a higher seed, but we’ll take it.”

On the other hand, since inheriting the program in 2007, Todd Holthaus has steadily built one of Pima College’s most consistent programs. Holthaus only had one losing season, and that came in his first season.

“The thing I’m proudest of is that we’ve been to five straight region championships,” Holthaus said last week. “If you’re in the region championship, you’re one step away. Consistency for a junior college, that’s something we take a lot of pride in.”

Make that six straight — the Aztecs lost to Mesa CC in the region championship by one point last week.

Here’s a look back at both Aztec seasons.

Team MVPs

Men: Shakir Smith and Murphy Gershman

Women: Raja Moreno-Ross

It’s all former Tucson Badgers here. On the men’s side, Smith was a stud. The Wyoming transfer averaged an ACCAC-best 29.3 points per game, scored 30 or more nine times and set a Pima record by scoring 54 points in the playoff game.

Gershman was a consistent 20-and-10 guy and led the team when Smith was out.

For the women, Moreno-Ross was consistently good, if not great, for the Aztecs, who finished 20-12. She had 10-plus rebounds 15 times and 20 or more points six times.

Best game

Men: Feb. 26 against Phoenix College

The Aztecs lost their playoff game, and were eliminated, but the game was a doozy.

For one, Smith scored 54 points, with 10 three-pointers. Plus, Pima tied the game in regulation when Tyler D’Amore (Ironwood Ridge) hit a three-pointer with 20 seconds left to send it into overtime. Pima couldn’t hang in OT though, and lost 108-104.

Women: March 6 against Mesa CC

Like the men, this game was a playoffs loss, but a close one. For the women, the season ended when a Felicia Foster shot at the buzzer was off the mark, and the Aztecs lost 65-64.

Outlook for 2014-15

In terms of players coming back, and players leaving, the men’s team is in better shape.

The Aztecs will lose Smith, a sophomore who is being looked at by a number of Division I programs. But, they will get Gershman back. Oh, and the rest of their roster besides D’Amore, since they are all freshmen.

For the women, Moreno-Ross and Foster are tough losses, but they also will get back Alicia Jones (Palo Verde) and Melody McLaughlin (Mountain View). Jones was the team’s leading scorer.

Other sports

In track and field, jumper Kaysee Pilgrim won a national championship for the women’s team on Saturday in the NJCAA Indoor National Championships in New York.

  • The baseball team (15-10, 9-4) won three of its four games last week, sweeping Central Arizona and splitting with Yavapai. First baseman
  • Kellen Marruffo
  • (Sabino) had a home run and five RBIs in the four games.
  • The softball team’s losing streak is at eight games after Pima was swept by both Central Arizona and Eastern Arizona last week.

Contact reporter Zack Rosenblatt at zrosenblatt@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @ZackBlatt

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