By: Joshua Gerard Gargiulo
PHOENIX - A much-needed win against Glendale adds another twist to a convoluted first season for Head Coach, Duane Eason.
Following a Cristiano Gomes lay-up eight minutes in; the Bears’ looked in total control, up 17-8. Running their usual full-court press, it seemed Glendale had no answer for the lockdown defense of Phoenix College.
But just as quickly as the Bears’ jumped out to a 10-point lead. The Gauchos responded with a run of their own. Back-to-back misses from the line by Darius Goudeau, allowed for Glendale’s Wei-Kai Liao to convert a transition basket- on the other end. A Michael Walcott foul, following a Parker Anderson miss, sent Glendale back to the stripe. After converting both attempts, ten points quickly turned to five.
The tides turned at that moment. It did no justice to the Bears’ that they only scored six points in the final eight minutes. Eventually surrendering the lead and trailing at the half, 42-36.
Both coach’s halftime speech clearly gained no traction, as the Bears’ and Gauchos’ entered the second-half “cold as ice.” Both teams combined for five misses and nine turnovers in the first two minutes. Eventually they traded buckets around the 18:00 mark, but it took another three minutes before either team would gain any momentum.
You never want to say the Referees dictated the outcome. But when a game is officiated where neither team can run a full-play, without some type of call, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a way to cut into the lead. A total of 47 Free-Throws were attempted by both teams.
This worked in Phoenix College’s favor, as a small run between 15:00-13:30 marks gave the Bears’ some breathing room before this occurrence.
Glendale was not worried about the score; however, as the clock was still-ticking in the double-digits. Some would say: They figured us out. But the true answer proved to be grit and determination. Despite being down by as much as thirteen, the Gauchos’ relentlessly pressed-on and saw the smallest of their players make the biggest of contributions: 5’7 guard, Joshuwan Johnson.
Johnson, who stands “14 inches smaller than PC’s tallest-player: Alfredo Fuentes, corralled multiple Offensive rebounds in the heavily-populated post. As he single-handedly brought the Gauchos’ back into striking distance with his rebounds and put-backs.
It is becoming extremely difficult to view Phoenix College as “closers”, when mistakes like four-straight rebound and misses, or poor free throw percentage (57.7% vs. Glendale) has teams hanging around until the final buzzer.
Johnson was not finished yet, as he put up 14-more points in the final five minutes. Including back-to-back threes, which brought the Gauchos’ to within three- at the time.
If you were looking for “down to the wire” action, you picked the right night to come.
With :15 seconds left, Deron Kyle stepped to the Free-Throw line with two shots. He only needed one to push the game to four points / two possessions. After missing the first, a composed Kyle spun the ball on his hands; taking his usual routine, making sure to inhale deeper than before. Silence… and SWOOSH!
As the Bears’ trotted to the other end, it was “All-or-Nothing.” Eason made sure his players knew, one stop was all they needed. Almost simultaneously, an ill-advised pass from Glendale’s Darien Knowles would be the “nail in the coffin” for the Gauchos.
A few intentional (Pride) fouls were taken by Glendale, extending the game a few minutes longer. Phoenix College securing a much-need win, 82-77, against rival Glendale Community College.
With guard Chris Holloway and forward Ahmed Levon still missing significant time due to compliance issues, Phoenix College still feels the effects of such a crucial change in scenery.
Following a blow-out loss to Cochise last Saturday. This result and its stat line only highlights a continual issue for PC. In Wednesday’s match-up against Glendale Community College, Bears guards all scored over five points; but not one of those five guys managed to eclipse the 15 point-mark.
Thankfully, the solution is “In-house” for Eason: Where some talent lacks form, other players have made huge strides in practice. Allowing the floor to be spaced, and the tempo- slowed down. It also helps when your Psuedo-Captain, Darius Goudeau produces a double-double- regardless of result.
Something of a surprise are the strides made from the “Twin Towers” Alfredo Fuentes and Cristiano Gomes, who have seen their chances expand with the absence of Ahmed Levon. Both of them gifted with size (Fuentes: 6’9 / Gomes: 6’11), allow for Eason to implement a low-post presence in a guard-heavy league. While also securing much-need rebounds, on Offense and Defense.
“I think our Big-Men finally realize: They are tall,” Associate coach, Aaron Neideffer said. “This was really the first game that they were the ‘Tallest men on the floor’.”
Fuentes, who is averaging 5.0 PPG and 7.6 RPG in the New Year, is also leading the team in shooting percentage (75%) during the Calendar year. His best game was in a loss to Arizona Western; when he finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
Gomes has seen a steady increase of minutes during the year. Eason is content with Gomes’ production, for a first-year freshman, but also cites a “lack of work ethic and conditioning.” Averaging 5.4 PPG and 5.3 RPG, the Angola-born Big Man has begun to assert himself as the tallest player on the floor- as he is. A few days and nights of slamming a medicine ball on the hoop and we could begin to see some posterizations on smaller counterparts.
The next game for Phoenix College is scheduled for this Saturday, January 26th. Both Men’s and Women’s basketball takes place in the North Gym (The Bears’ Den), at the usual Saturday-times of 2:00pm and 4:30pm.Tickets are $3 for Adults and $1 for Students w/ ID. Phoenix College’s address is 1201 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix, AZ, 85013.