Ed Petruska-Pinal Central
SIGNAL PEAK — The win came surprisingly easy for the Central Arizona College women's basketball team on Saturday.
The Vaqueras thumped Eastern Arizona 77-57 at the George Young Activity Center to pull even with the Gila Monsters for second place in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference standings.
CAC (12-6, 8-3 ACCAC) essentially sealed the outcome by outscoring Eastern 25-16 in the third quarter to take a 58-43 lead. The Vaqueras, who have won five in a row, led by 22 twice in the final period.
"I had a good feeling going in," CAC coach Denise Cardenas said. "Any time you can keep a team in the 50s, you're playing solid defense. I hope we can keep the competitive edge" for the second go-round of conference play, which begins Wednesday against Arizona Western in Yuma.
Central trailed conference leader Cochise by two games heading into Saturday's action.
"We have a long way to go," Cardenas said. "It's going to be a difficult road and a battle to the finish."
Eastern's point total matched a season low for a Central opponent. It was the seventh time this season the Vaqueras have held an opponent to under 60 points. They came in allowing 69.6 per game.
The Gila Monsters (12-7, 8-3 ACCAC) shot 35 percent from the field, going 20 of 57 overall and 5 of 24 on 3-pointers.
Central's Ayanna Clark scored 17 of her game-high 25 points in the second half, getting 11 in the third quarter. She was the ACCAC Division I player of the week for Jan. 7-12, the third time this season she has garnered the honor.
The key to the third quarter surge was CAC's relentless offensive rebounding that led to 13 second-chance points and a defense that limited the Gila Monsters to two points on their first eight possessions.
Up 33-27 at halftime, Central began the third with a 12-2 run that included a pair of second-chance baskets by Clark. Guadian's second-chance basket extended the margin to 47-29, and another second-chance basket by Clark put the Vaqueras ahead by 18 points for the second time at 49-31 with 4:57 remaining.
Jeuzel Pollins scored on a driving layup with 4:37 left in the fourth quarter to make it 70-50. Clark's second-chance basket with 2:57 to play gave CAC a 74-52 cushion, and Alexia Marsh's basket made it 76-54 with 1:14 remaining.
There were two lead changes and one tie in the first quarter, which ended with the Vaqueras holding a 20-10 lead. Central went ahead to stay at 8-5 on Guadian's 3-pointer with 6:27 left.
Tianna Brown scored 16 points and Courtney Anderson had 10 for the Gila Monsters. Makenzie Bond, Eastern's top scorer with a 16.3 average, was limited to four points.