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By Jessie Vanderson
TUCSON -Whenever Pima College faces Mesa College in women’s basketball you just expect a donnybrook.
The Pima Aztecs, the No. 2 ranked team in the country in NJCAA Div. II women’s basketball, will host their archrival in a showdown of the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference’s two top Division II squads Wednesday evening at Aztecs Gym on Pima’s West Campus. The winner of the game will be the team to catch in the ACCAC Div. II for the rest of the season, and the likely host of the NJCAA Region I-Division II championship game in early March. Tip off is at 5:30.
Pima playing Mesa in women’s basketball over the last decade as meant nothing but a catfight that was often not decided until overtime.
The Thunderbirds of head coach Kori Stephenson will head down Interstate 10 Wednesday afternoon as hungry to get after the Aztecs of head coach Todd Holthaus as bad as a junkyard dog needs a steak dinner. Since Mesa won the 2014 NJCAA Division II women’s national championship, Holthaus teams have beaten the Thunderbirds five straight times. Pima, which thumped the Thunderbirds three times last winter, hammered Mesa 78-54 in the NJCAA Region I-Div.II championship game last year to earn a trip to the NJCAA Div.II national championship tournament, where the Aztecs won three out of four games to finish in third-place.
Mesa, led by standout sophomore guard, Quynne Huggins (Goodyear Millenium) and big-body sophomore forward Allies Fuller, will arrive carrying a 6-3 record in ACCAC games after suffering 83-48 defeat at home Saturday to a powerful Cochise College team. Cochise leads the ACCAC women’s ranks with a 8-1 record. Mesa, 10-5 overall, is ranked No. 6 in the conference.
Pima, which sits third in the league behind No. 2 Arizona Western College and Cochise, will be waiting for the Thunderbirds Wednesday feeling sky high after exploding for a 96 points and a 96-85 victory against host Central Arizona College in a ACCAC game played Saturday in Coolidge.
Sydni Stallworth, a NJCAA Div. II first-team All American last year as a freshman at Pima, erupted for a season-high 34 points against the Vaqueros, who saw their record fall to 6-3 in the conference. Denesia Smith, Stallworth’s athletic backcourt mate, scored 17 in that game. Stallworth and Smith team to make up the best backcourt tandem in the ACCAC. Mesa will have a lot more than Stallworth and Smith to worry about. Sharpshooting Aztec forward Bree Cates also score 17 against Central while frontcourt teammate Erin Peterson contributed 10 points and eight rebounds.
Men’s Action Follows
In the men’s game Wednes-day, which will follow the women’s game at Aztecs Gym, the Aztecs will be entertaining one of the top teams in the ACCAC so far this winter in the visiting the Thunderbirds.
Mesa, which fell to Cochise College Saturday ,76-71 at their Theo Heap Gym, sits with Cochise, Western and Phoenix College at the top of the ACCAC men’s division with all four squads owning 7-2 marks in conference action.
Brent Kimbrel, a freshman shooting guard for the Thunderbirds, scored a team-high 15 points in that defeat. Mesa is 12-4 overall.
Pima (5-4, 11-6) also will coming into the game coming off a loss. The Aztecs of head coach Brian Peabody fell 103-97 to Central in a high-scoring affair that saw the host Vaqueros pump in 62 points in the second half. Zach Evans, a sophomore point guard from Chandler Hamilton, scored a team-high 27 points for Pima.
ACCAC Indoor Track Starting
The 2017 Indoor Track and Field season will get started for ACCAC schools this weekend. The Paradise Valley Community College women and men thin clads will host two days (Jan 20-21) of multi-events action (pentathlon and heptathlon) at the their annual Paradise Valley Indoor Meet. The meet will start both days at 11 a.m. The Pumas will host full team action on Jan. 28 as the indoor campaign for ACCAC squads will swing into full gear.