Pima College notebook

Pima notebook: Both hoops teams in race for postseason

2014-01-14T00:00:00Z Pima notebook: Both hoops teams in race for postseasonBy Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Pima College men and women’s basketball teams have never exactly shared success.

When the men had three straight winning seasons from 2000-02, the women never won more than 10 games in a year.

From 2003-08, the women went 35-96, the men 48-132, and neither team had a single winning season in that stretch.

In fact, in the last 20 years, there’s only been one season with crossover success — in 2010, the lady Aztecs went 28-8 and the men were 20-16.

Now, things might finally be changing — both teams are pretty good.

With two losses last week, the men dropped to 9-9 overall in coach Brian Peabody‘s first year, but they’re still in pretty good shape for playoff contention.

The women split a series with Cochise College and Arizona Western, and now sit at 10-8.

“I love it. I really do,” said Todd Holthaus, the women’s coach. “I love working with Coach Peabody. We’ve been in town together for a long time. We’ve never been on the same side, but we’ve always worked well together. There are two coaches in the building that can bounce ideas off each other. I love going to the gym everyday because we help each other out.”

Both teams have 12 games left to make up ground in the standings. Here’s a look at what’s happened for both squads and what’s in store for the rest of the way.

The women

Record: 10-8, 6-4 ACCAC

Last five games: 3-2

Standings: Sixth place, one game out of fourth, two games out of third

Team identity: Three-headed monster

Tucson High grad Raja Moreno-Ross (12.9 points, 9.2 rebounds) is the star, but the combination of sophomores Moreno-Ross, Felicia Foster and freshman Alicia Jones (Palo Verde) is what makes the Aztecs dangerous on offense.

“Everybody loves somebody who averages 20 a game,” Holthaus said, “but I’ll take three players that can average 10 because you have to pick your poison each night and that’s been a huge reason for our success.”

Jones gets 12.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 threes per game, while Foster adds 12.3 points, 3.6 assists and 2.4 threes per game.

Biggest strength: Balance

Thanks in large part to the aforementioned duo, the Aztecs have a nice balance of outside (Jones, Foster) and inside scoring (Moreno-Ross, freshman Melody McLaughlin, Mountain View). As a result, Pima is second in the ACCAC with 76.1 points per game.

Weakness: Closing out

When the Aztecs win, they tend to win big — on average, by 19.1 points. But in games decided by five points or less, Pima is 2-5.

Key upcoming games: Eastern Arizona (Jan. 18), Chandler-Gilbert CC (Jan. 25), Mesa CC (Feb. 8), Arizona Western (Feb. 18)

Quotable: “There’s still so many factors, but at the same time we’re positioning ourselves to be right there in the mix this year. I mean it’s just getting the girls to be confident at this time of the year and in the right spots, so I like where we’re at.” — Holthaus

The men

Record: 9-9, 4-6 ACCAC

Last five games: 3-2

Standings: 8th place, tied with two schools and two games back of two more

Team identity: Dynamic Duo

The Aztecs excel when Tucson High grads Shakir Smith and Murphy Gershman play well at the same time. Smith, a point guard, has averaged 30.7 points and 5.5 assists per game since he joined the team six games ago.

“He’s arguably made our team 20-30 points better,” Peabody said about Smith.

Gershman is fourth in the ACCAC in scoring (19.7 points), first in rebounds (10.4), 10th in field goal percentage (53.6) and fourth in three-point shooting (45.9 percent).

Biggest strength: Three-point shooting

The Aztecs lead the conference in three-pointers made per game (8.8) and have six players getting more than one three per game, lead by Smith (4.2) and guard Kendrick Little (2.2).

Weakness: Defense

Particularly three-point defense — the Aztecs are dead last in the ACCAC, allowing teams to shoot 41.2 percent from beyond the arc. Saturday in Yuma, Arizona Western hit 15 of 29 threes, and the Aztecs lost 96-76.

Key upcoming games: Glendale CC (Jan. 15), Eastern Arizona (Jan. 18), Central Arizona (Jan. 22), Tohono O’odham CC (Feb. 12)

Quotable: “Guys have bought into the work ethic we have, and they bring that mind-set to practice every day, and we get after it.” — Peabody

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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