SIGNAL PEAK — Lapses in concentration took their toll on Central Arizona College in Tuesday's men's basketball game against No. 18 New Mexico Junior College.
Playing their fourth game in four days, the Vaqueros fell 70-63 to the Thunderbirds at the George Young Activity Center.
"That didn't really wear on us," CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said of the busy schedule.
"Everybody played good minutes. The issue was concentration like it has been for us all year. We had careless turnovers, we weren't talking on defense ... things like that.
"You can't fall asleep when you play high-level teams. You have to be locked in for the full 40 minutes."
Central, which had won four of its previous five games, overcame a 42-32 halftime deficit to take a 50-49 lead on JC Canahuate's 3-pointer with 11:37 remaining. NMJC (12-4) responded with an 11-2 run over the next 5 1/2 minutes to pull ahead 60-52.
The Vaqueros (7-7) narrowed the margin to two points on three occasions after that. Shakeil Bertrand's second-chance basket made it 60-58 with 3:52 to play, and Canahuate's reverse layup cut the deficit to 62-60 with 2:16 left.
Canahuate was fouled while making a 3-pointer with 44.9 seconds remaining. But he missed the free throw to leave the Thunderbirds with a 63-65 lead.
Keaton Hervey banked in a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer with 14.8 seconds left to seal the win for NMJC, which snapped a two-game losing streak.
"We had our chances," Aaron said. "I think we've been playing some good basketball lately. We're knocking on the door."
Canahuate scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the second half for CAC, which made just 12 of its final 37 field goal attempts after hitting 10 of 19 to begin the game. The Vaqueros finished at 39 percent.
Brenton Woods had 13 points, getting 10 in the first half, and Bertrand scored 11.
Central went 10 for 30 on 3-pointers and 9 for 15 on free throws.
Hervey and Terence Lewis both had 19 points for NMJC. The Thunderbirds shot 50 percent in the first half and 47 percent for the game (24 of 51 overall, 7 for 18 on 3-pointers).
The Vaqueros went up 6-0 in the early going, getting 3-pointers from Woods and DJ Hawkins on their first two possessions.
The first of the game's three ties came with 9:37 left in the first half when Hervey converted a three-point play to make it 21-21.
The Thunderbirds took their first lead at 27-25 on Mohammed Jafari's 3-pointer with 7:36 remaining until halftime. That came during a 16-2 run by NMJC that put the Vaqueros in a 39-27 hole with 2:31 left in the half.
Central clawed back into contention by outscoring the Thunderbirds 18-7 to begin the second half. NMJC missed its first two shots, then committed five consecutive turnovers before a basket by Lewis produced the Thunderbirds' first points with 14:48 to play.
The Vaqueros return to Arizona Community College Athletic Conference play Saturday at home against Chandler-Gilbert.