Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Levi Thygerson (33) puts back an offensive rebound for two. Pima played hard but came up just short against Show Low, 40-36.
By Jon Johnson
PIMA – Down two starting big men and others, the Pima Roughriders mustered a good fight but couldn’t quite pull it out against the visiting Show Low Cougars, who prevailed 40-36 Tuesday night.
Down by two with time running out, Tim Salyer attempted to drive into the lane and split the defense but Show Low’s Tylon Evans came up with the steal and took it the other way. Evans couldn’t convert, but the Cougars (5-3 overall) kept the ball and Salyer intentionally fouled Aahron Villalba with 5.5 seconds to play. With ice in his veins, Villalba sunk the two free throws and any chance at a Pima victory.
“At halftime we told the kids ‘ok now guards you’re going to have to be more aggressive and look to try to get involved’ and I thought they did about as good as Pima would allow,” said Show Low head coach Matt Thacker. “They’re a tough stick. Pima comes out and gets after you. I mean, they’ve got a lot to be proud of. They play with a lot of pride and heart, they really do.”
Video By Jon Johnson/Gila Herald
Pima (6-4 overall) was without the services of Dawson Pruszynski (knee) for the sixth straight game and Jake Whitaker (thumb), both of who are normally starters down low. They both missed Pima’s Wednesday night game at Willcox, which Pima won 61-37, and no timetable has been set for either player. However, Pima head coach Cliff Thompson told the Gila Herald that he did not expect Pruszynski back for Pima’s regional matchup with Morenci on Saturday.
“I don’t think we’ll have him,” Thompson said. “All the guys who are out, we want them to get healthy. We want to play as good as we can with who we have and want to just prepare individually. And, you know, sometimes things like this are a blessing in disguise; some other guys get to be in pressure situations and learn and get better as basketball players and, hopefully, in the long run, it will make us a better overall team.”
To compensate for their lack and depth in the front court, the Roughriders fronted the Cougars’ big men all game with backside help and it proved effective. The result was a number of turnovers in favor of the Roughriders, who then dealt the ball quickly on the outlet and were off and running.
A bright spot in the game had to be the play of Hayden Ashby and Levi Thygerson, who pounded against Show Low’s trio of big men all night and played ferocious defense while fronting the post and helping each other out on the backside.
Ashby was also a force to be reckoned with on the offensive side, snagging put backs off offensive rebounds and driving past the slower, bigger Show Low players from the wing to score. Ashby finished with 8 points on the night, good for second highest on the team.
“I was really happy with Hayden Ashby,” Thompson said. “I thought he played really well. He guarded their best player . . . I think he did a really good job and he took on a little more of a scoring role. That hasn’t been his role in the past but he did a good job tonight.”
Pima’s defense forced Show Low into two turnovers on its first two possessions and the night started out bright for the Roughriders as Alec Judd sunk a 3-pointer to break the ice. Judd hit two more 3’s in the second period, leading Pima with a game-high 12 points and guiding the Roughriders to a 25-21 halftime advantage.
In the second half points became scarce, however, as Show Low switched up its defensive player on Judd and Pima had trouble finding the bucket. A 6-0 run by Show Low knotted the game at 27.
Pima came back with a put back by Thygerson (6 points) but Villalba answered with his third 3-pointer of the night to put Show Low up for good at 30-29.
Pima was within two points at the end of the third, 34-32, but Show Low began to pull away in the fourth as Colton McGinnis had a big block that led to points for Show Low at the other end of the court on a double pick.
Pima was down but not out and Salyer (7 points) hit a jumper and Judd successfully drove the lane for a lay-up to cut Show Low’s lead back to 38-36 as time dwindled out of the game.
Inexplicably, Villalba lost the ball out of bounds with under a minute to play, giving Pima a chance to tie or go up with a 3.
“We didn’t play very well with the lead,” Thacker said. “I thought it was just two tough teams that wanted to win.”
That’s when Salyer’s attempt to split the defense failed, and Show Low hung on for the 40-36 victory.
Pima beat Willcox, 61-37, Wednesday night and will next host Morenci (6-2 overall) in a Saturday game starting at 4:30 p.m.
In other local prep action:
The Thatcher Eagles (4-2 overall) defeated Willcox on Tuesday, 77-38. The Eagles will next play in the 56th annual EAC Holiday Tournament, starting Monday, Dec. 17, against the Duncan Wildkats.
The Duncan Wildkats (4-2 overall) lost to the Fort Thomas Apaches (5-2 overall) 55-37 on Tuesday. Duncan will host the North Phoenix Preparatory Gladiators on Friday, Dec. 14, starting at 5 p.m.
Fort Thomas will next play in the 56th annual EAC Holiday Tournament on Monday, Dec. 17, against Pima, starting at 8 p.m. Pima won the opening match between the two at Fort Thomas on Nov. 20, 44-35.