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Second half charge lifts Vaqueras past No. 13 Southern Idaho

Makayla Pippin heads downcourt against Southern Idaho Monday night in vaqueras win.-Oscar Perez Pinal Central
Makayla Pippin heads downcourt against Southern Idaho Monday night in vaqueras win.-Oscar Perez Pinal Central

By ED PETRUSKA Contributing Writer -Pinal Central

SIGNAL PEAK – Playing its fourth game in four days and coming off a long return trip from Hobbs, New Mexico, the Central Arizona College women's basketball team was not in top form for Monday night's game against Southern Idaho.

Not until the second half, that is.

The 11th-ranked Vaqueras outscored the No. 13 Golden Eagles 46-28 in the final 20 minutes to come away with a 78-68 victory at the George Young Activity Center. After trailing by 11 points twice in the first half, CAC (3-1) went ahead to stay at 64-62 on Ayanna Clark's basket with 5:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.

"It felt like we were in quicksand the first half," Central coach Denise Cardenas said. "Mentally we were still traveling, which is zero excuse. I'm just glad we were able to pull it out in the second half. Our energy completely changed."

Clark scored 21 of her game-high 24 points in the second half, getting 13 in the final period. Makayla Pippin finished with 18 points and Denali Hughes came off the bench to provide 16.

"Our posts finally became a presence after not being a presence at all in the first half,' Cardenas said. "We had a few putbacks and we got some rebounds. We started to do our jobs, and I'm proud of the girls for fighting hard."

Southern Idaho (1-2) had five players score in double figures. Leading the way was Petra Farkas with 16, followed by Macie Knapp with 14, Jordan Todd with 13, Taylia Stimpson with 11 and Karmelah Dean with 10.

The Vaqueras shot 49 percent from the field in the second half (17 of 35) while holding the Golden Eagles to 31 percent (11 of 35). CAC also scored 12 points off 13 turnovers in the final two periods.

Southern Idaho had eight points off 10 turnovers in the first half. The Vaqueras committed just six turnovers in the second half.

Central owned a 14-13 lead after one quarter, only to be outscored 27-18 in the second to trail 40-32 at halftime. The Golden Eagles were up 54-53 after three periods.

There were five lead changes and three ties in the fourth quarter. Pippin's basket on the opening possession of the period put the Vaqueras ahead 55-54 – their first lead since the opening quarter. Southern Idaho went up for the last time at 62-60 on Jalen Callender's basket with 6:16 to play.

Clark then connected for baskets on three consecutive possessions, two on putbacks. Pippin's 3-pointer made it 69-64 with 2:53 remaining, and CAC closed with a 6-0 run in the final minute after Southern Idaho trimmed the margin to 72-68 on two free throws by Knapp with 1:11 left.

The Vaqueras defeated Howard, Texas, 52-38 in their Nov. 1 opener to give Cardenas her 300th win as CAC's coach. Following an 80-79 loss to fourth-ranked New Mexico JC, Central notched a 67-60 victory over Western Texas before heading home and arriving on campus at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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