By: Joshua Gerard Gargiulo
PHOENIX - With star-guard Tre Mitchell sitting-out via coach’s decision, Men’s basketball secures victory in their home opener against Tohono O’odham. With all-around performances from Michael Walcott and Kenny Sutton, and five total players in double-figures.
The first 10-minutes saw good competition between both teams, as PC was out-rebounding the Jegos by only one, 12-11 on the boards. Despite good match-ups down-low, the Bears saw their lead expand to as much as 13 points with 10:26 left. But just as the Bears’ found their rhythm. The team went flat following a Demetrius Campbell 3-pointer, missing their next five shots and two free-throws.
“Our guys weren’t focused; and I take responsibility for that. I’m the coach, I got to have them ready,” Coach Eason said.
As the momentum quickly shifted, the Jegos of Tohono O’odham, who were just in Phoenix for the ‘Native American Classic’ gave a spirited effort to get back in it. The run started with a basket from Deonte McInnis. From there, Tohono O’odham followed up with three 3’s off PC turnovers from Robert Hernandez, Joe Heath and Isaiah Alonzo.
Deron Kyle sunk two free-throws to cap the short-run, but the tone was being set at breakneck speed. The teams traded baskets until halftime, which saw the Bears only leading by two, 48-46.
Going into the locker room, Coach Eason saw the opportunity as “a moment to take a step back.” He employed assistant coach Steve Wyatt to administer the halftime speech. Although not providing details, whatever was said: clicked! As the Bears opened the second half on a 15-6 run.
Alfredo Fuentes’s presence on the glass was the key to starting the run, with two rebounds and two points- out of the gate. Fuentes, who recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds, is turning into everything coach Eason hoped for.
“In the beginning, I thought Alfredo was timid; but now I realize, he was just unsure… I think that balance is hard when you’re trying to learn- at a level you have never played before- and you’re trying to learn the system, that’s hard to do.” Eason said. “I think it started with him getting comfortable and realizing he can play, at this level. After that, then it was figuring out what he can-and-can’t do well.”
Kenny Sutton (who had “one of his best all-around games”) and Habib Arogundade (starting in-place of the injured Tre Mitchell) picked up the missing pieces with their teammate sidelined. Both provided good ball movement for the Bears. Sutton dishing out seven assists to go with ten points; Arogundade, five assists and six points.
“In the first six or seven minutes of the half, we did a real good job of moving the basketball,” Eason said. “I think once the focus was where it needed to be; I think it was a lot easier for guys to pass and move, because there is a different level of confidence at that point.”
Following the 15-6 run by PC, the Jegos retaliated with a single three before the Bears popped-off another run. This time scoring twelve unanswered.
Although many contributed, the credit goes to non-other than Michael Walcott who forced three turnovers, secured a rebound and five points in the next three minutes of action. Walcott had a break-out performance last night, finishing with 13 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.
The last ten minutes seemed to be more of a streetball match, as PC began enjoying their lead, tossing alley-oops off backdoor screens. Darius Goudeau, Alfredo Fuentes and Deron Kyle all ‘rocking the rim.’ Despite allowing the Jegos to trim their hefty lead in the final five minutes; the Bears ended up cruising to a comfortable, but “room for improvement” 20-point win.
“I’m never happy. We’ll be in here May 21st with the National Championship, and I’ll be mad we didn’t win by 30,” Eason said.
High-point man Deron Kyle finished the game with 22 points and 2 rebounds. Not allowing an ailing foot injury, earlier this month, to hinder his play on the court.
Darius Goudeau continued his all-conference performance, following-up his second “player of the week” nomination, with his fifth double-double of the season.
Stand-out performances also included: Alfredo Fuentes (16 Pts, 10 Reb), Kenny Sutton (10 Pts, 7 Ast, 3 Reb) and Michael Walcott (13 Pts, 2 Ast, 2 Reb).
The Bears continue their seven-game homestand, this Saturday, at the Bears’ den. When your Bears take on the Coyotes of Chandler-Gilbert. The Women’s game starts at 5:00pm, followed by a 7:30pm start for the men.