Ed Petruska-Pinal Central Contributing Writer
SIGNAL PEAK — With three consecutive wins in conference play, the outlook is looking a little rosier for the Central Arizona College men's basketball team.
The Vaqueros used stifling defense to overpower Chandler-Gilbert 61-39 on Saturday at the George Young Activity Center. The Coyotes' point total was a season low for a CAC opponent.
More important, the Vaqueros are 3-4 in Arizona Community College Athletic Conference play following an 0-4 start.
"I truly believe that we have the best defense in the league," CAC coach Tramaine Aaron said. "We just haven't been consistent. Today we played great. I hope it's a tone-setter that we can continue to carry over."
Shakeil Bertrand provided a team-best 18 points for the Vaqueros (8-7 overall), who outscored the Coyotes 29-21 in the first half and 32-18 in the second. Jalen Menzies collected eight of his 11 points in the second half, and Brenton Woods finished with 10.
Chandler-Gilbert (6-9, 0-7 ACCAC) came in averaging 59.5 points in conference play. But the Coyotes had just one player score in double digits – Matt Hill with 10 points.
The Vaqueros allowed an average of 71.7 points in their previous six ACCAC games.
"Our energy and communication were good," Aaron said. "We forced a lot of turnovers and tough shots, and we got stops."
The previous low point total for a CAC opponent was 53. It became apparent that Chandler-Gilbert would not come close to reaching that number when the Coyotes began the second half by going 0 for 5 from the field with three turnovers on their first nine possessions.
The Vaqueros took a 14-point lead at 36-22 on Ryan Pate's 3-pointer with 17:09 left. The margin grew to 20 points at 44-24 when Menzies made two free throws with 11:39 remaining to cap a 15-3 surge.
Chandler-Gilbert was 3 for 16 from the floor with 10 turnovers in the second half before scoring 11 points – nine on free throws – in the final 6:34. The Coyotes were held to four field goals in the second half and 13 for the game.
Central's largest lead of 24 points came on a second-chance basket by Woods with 29.5 seconds to play that made it 61-37.
Notching three straight ACCAC wins "is a boost for our confidence," Aaron said. "We're showing some heart and some fight. Right now we're in a pretty good spot."
Keeping the streak going Wednesday night at home against Glendale, which has a 4-3 conference mark, won't be an easy task.
"Consistency is the key," Aaron said. "We need to continue to stay in our lane and concentrate on what's in front of us."