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CAC women beat Mesa after Cardenas inducted into Kofa Hall of Fame

Central Arizona Head Coach Denise Cardenas
Central Arizona Head Coach Denise Cardenas

SIGNAL PEAK — Hours after being inducted into the Yuma Kofa High School Athletics Hall of Fame, Central Arizona College women's basketball coach Denise Cardenas watched her team topple Mesa to remain undefeated in Arizona Community College Athletic Conference play.

"It worked out in all ways," Cardenas said following CAC's 61-46 victory over the Thunderbirds on Saturday night at the George Young Activity Center. "It's kind of exciting. I really appreciate (Mesa coach Kori Stephenson) for switching the game time (from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.). She did not have to do that. It was really, really classy on her part."

The No. 13 Vaqueras (18-3, 13-0 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) got off to a somewhat bumpy start, leading 11-7 after one quarter. They outscored the Thunderbirds (13-7, 10-3 ACCAC) 15-10 in each of the next two periods and were up by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter.

"Mesa is a very tough team," Cardenas said. "They never go away. Every single time we play them it's always a grind because they're very disciplined."

Cardenas said the Vaqueras "stuck to the game plan" against the Thunderbirds, ranked No. 19 in Division II.

"They wanted us to rush shots, but we didn't force it," she said.

Makayla Pippin wound up scoring 17 points for the Vaqueras after being held to five in the first half. Ayanna Clark finished with 16 after also being limited to five first-half points. Clark came 

in leading the ACCAC in scoring with a 20.6 average and Pippin was No. 3 with 18.3 points per game.

Jayla Johnson had 16 points for the Thunderbirds, whose point total was a season low. Mesa came in with a 7-0 road record.

The first time the teams met on Nov. 23, Central handed Mesa its most lopsided ACCAC loss of the season (88-66), with CAC's point total being the most the Thunderbirds have allowed to any opponent.

The Vaqueras began the third quarter with a 26-17 lead. Mesa reduced the margin to 31-26 on Johnson's basket with 4:35 left but would get no closer. Pippin's 3-pointer ignited a 9-0 run that extended CAC's lead to 40-26 with 1:27 remaining in the third.

The Vaqueras led by 17 on seven occasions in the fourth quarter, the first time at 48-31 on two free throws by Clark with 5:56 to play.

Central improved to 10-0 at home this season. The Vaqueras have just three home games left before the postseason begins.

Cardenas received all-state recognition 11 times while playing volleyball, basketball and softball at Kofa.

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