Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Pima boys basketball team beat Morenci on Friday night, 73-44.
By Jon Johnson
PIMA – The Pima Roughriders boys basketball team has started region play 2-0 and is set to challenge No. 5 Willcox for the top perch in the 2A San Pedro Region.
No. 8 Pima (2-0 region, 4-1 conference, 12-5 overall) defeated No. 18 Morenci (0-2 region, 1-3 conference, 4-8 overall) on Friday night, 73-44. Previously, the Roughriders defeated the Benson Bobcats on Tuesday night, 72-43, in an identical scoring game.
“Overall, we played well,” said Pima head coach Cliff Thompson after the Morenci game. “I liked everybody who came into the game.”
The game was a calling out party for reserve center Nathan Skiba, who led the Roughriders with a career-high 19 points on 9-10 shooting (90%) in just 11 minutes of game time. Skiba was a beast down low and dominated the smaller Wildcats, scoring easily two feet from the basket and grabbing 11 rebounds for the double-double.
“Nathan Skiba was getting after it, and I like to see that,” coach Thompson said. “He has a certain skill set and it works really well in certain situations and he maximized it tonight. He used his bulk, took up space, and scored a lot of points, so I was really happy for him.”
Starter Seth Russell had an equally big night down low as all 18 of his points were in the paint from 9-10 shooting (90%), with 11 rebounds for a double-double.
The sharp-shooting big men helped Pima with its overall shooting percentage (60.5%) for 2-point field goals, but its 3-point shooting was just 29.4% as they hit 5-17. For the Wildcats, Morenci shot 50% from the field on 2-point field goals and were 28.6% from 3-point on 6-21.
The Wildcats came to play and had the game tied 9-9 after about 5 minutes of play. However, Coy Miller nailed a 3-pointer and then made a steal and fast-break layup to jump-start a 12-2 Pima run to end the first quarter 21-11.
Pima extended its lead in the second quarter through play down low by Skiba and Russell, with an assist of a 3-pointer by Leland Thompson.
Morenci came out strong in the third quarter, which was more competitive yet ultimately won by Pima (15-12) as Skiba went off for 8 in the quarter.
The Roughriders finished off the fourth with a bookend of the first (21 points) and left the court with the 73-44 victory.
“We just need to keep getting better as a team,” coach Thompson said. “We’ve got the playoffs not too far – we’re a month away and that’s it. So, we’ve got to start gearing up for that.”
Other scorers for Pima included Garrett Curtis with 9 points; followed by Coy Miller with 8; Grant Ashby with 7; Leland Thompson with 6; Sam Ray with 4, and Pierce Ashby with 2 points.
A bright spot for Morenci was Tristen Sanchez who hit four 3-pointers and four field goals for a game-high 21 points. Other scorers for Morenci included Christian Mutengela with 8; Donnie Vozza with 5; Daylen Johnson with 4, and Derek Saenz and Noah Chavez with 3 points each.
Pima will next host the Willcox Cowboys on Wednesday, Jan. 19, starting at 7 p.m. Currently, Willcox has the edge over Pima for first place in the 2A San Pedro Region due to their respective conference schedules, however, Pima previously defeated Willcox 72-26 during the EAC Holiday Tournament.
Morenci has lost its last seven games in a row and will look to turn the ship around by hosting the No. 40 Tombstone Yellow Jackets on Monday, Jan. 17, starting at 7 p.m.
In other local region boys hoops action:
In 3A action, the No. 36 Safford Bulldogs (2-2 region, 2-3 conference, 7-9 overall) defeated (Tucson) Empire 61-25. The Bulldogs next play a regional game against the No. 33 Tanque Verde Hawks on Monday, Jan. 17, starting at 1 p.m. at McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus.
The No. 18 Thatcher Eagles (1-1 region, 5-2 conference, 13-3 overall) defeated No. 25 San Tan Foothills, 54-38. Thatcher will next host No. 7 Gilbert Christian on Saturday, Jan. 15, starting at 7 p.m.
In 1A action, the No. 11 Duncan Wilkats (1-0 region, 8-2 conference, 14-4 overall) defeated the No. 24 Patagonia Union Lobos, 54-26. Duncan will next host the No. 20 Dishchii’bikoh Wildcats on Saturday, Jan. 15, starting at 5:30 p.m.