Pima blows out Safford before holiday tournament

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Coy Miller brings the ball down the court. The Pima point guard had 11 points in an 81-28 victory over Safford on Thursday night.

By Jon Johnson


PIMA – The Pima Roughriders boys basketball team opened their game against the Safford Bulldogs on Thursday with an 8-0 run and they never took their foot off the accelerator on their way to an 81-28 victory. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Seth Russell (32) and Leland Thompson (10) defend against Safford’s Thomas Weathers.

Pima (2-0 conference, 8-2 overall) used its size to dominate the paint on the offensive and defensive sides over Safford (1-0 region, 4-6 overall). The Roughriders kept Safford in single digits each quarter while scoring 27 points in both the first and third quarters, 20 in the second, and 7 in a mercy-rule running clock fourth quarter. 

“We’re trying to get better defensively, and we’re still playing really hard,” said Pima head coach Cliff Thompson. “I know sometimes it doesn’t look like we’re making mistakes but we’re making a lot of positional mistakes but we’re getting better.” 

Seth Russell was consistent down low and finished with a game-high 14 points. Russell expressed his authority on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.  

However, it was Wyatt Wiltbank who rose eyebrows in the first quarter as he hit two from deep to score 10 of his 12 points of the game in the period. Reserve forward Nathan Skiba also had a big night and finished with 11 points and went 5-6 from the free-throw line.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Seth Russell goes for 2 of his game-high 14.

After a 27-9 opening quarter, Pima continued to pour it on and led 47-15 at the half. It was more of the same in the third as Safford couldn’t keep up with the size and speed of Pima. The Roughriders opened a 50-point lead, 74-24 after three quarters, and ended the game 81-28.

“We’re a fairly young team – junior heavy – and so we’re still learning, trying to get better,” coach Thompson said. “But I think we played extremely hard tonight.”   

Inside/outside threats Grant Ashby and Garrett Curtis hit in the paint and beyond the arc for 7 and 11 points, respectively. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Dallin Kartchner looks for shooting room around Estevan Herrera.

Point guard Coy Miller ran the show, distributing the ball and sinking three from deep on his own for 11 points. Other scorers for Pima included guard Austen Ashby and center Pierce Ashby with 5 each; Sam Ray had 3, and Dallin Kartchner had 2. 

Jojo Ruelas and Marcus Rope led Safford with 6 points each; Brayden Bowman had 5; Estevan Herrera had 4; Nathaniel Quintero had 3, and Izaiah Alvarado and Cole Yentsch had 2 points each.

Click here to view the Gila Herald’s Photo Album of the game.

Pima and Safford will next play in the 58th annual Eastern Arizona College Christmas Tournament on Dec. 20-22. Safford will play its first game on Dec. 20 against Morenci, starting at 9 a.m., and Pima will play its first game the same day against Willcox, starting at 3 p.m.

In other local boys hoop action: 

The Thatcher Eagles (3-0) defeated the Window Rock Fighting Scouts (0-2 conference, 4-2 overall) 62-26.

Thatcher will next play in the EAC Christmas Tournament, starting on Dec. 20 against the Fort Thomas Apaches, starting at 6 p.m.