Arizona Western Junior College (12-3, 6-1) came into Thursday evening's road game at Phoenix College tied for first place in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC), and as winners of their last 10 games in a row. But they would face a very focused Phoenix College (9-3, 5-2) basketball team that was looking for their 4th win in a row, and on their home floor.
Phoenix College came into Thursday night's match-up playing their best basketball of the season, and excited about the return of 6-foot-4, 218-pound sophomore forward Brandon Pineda-Morales. Thursday evening's contest would be Pineda's first game of the season after suffering a severe ankle injury during the pre-season's ACCAC Juco Jamboree. The addition of Pineda would make Phoenix College a much more talented team, and also provide the Bears with a strong inside performer for their exciting match-up with a very talented Arizona Western ballclub.
Both teams would match one another early in the game, with Phoenix College getting strong performances early from gifted 5-foot-10 freshman point guard Brandon Brown, and 6-foot-5 freshman guard/forward Derreck Brooks. Arizona Western would get strong play early from superb 6-foot-2 freshman point guard Ali Faruqbey. Faruqbey had been selected as the ACCAC's Player of the Week recently for his recent strong performances, and he was more than up for the test in Thursday night's match-up.
Brown is an amazing story, as he has led Phoenix College this season in numerous statistical categories, after having troubles off the court in his past. Brown would overcome serious past adversity to play for the Bears this season, after a storied high school basketball career at Cesar Chavez High School. I have been pulling for Brown all season, as I am proud of what this young man has done for himself to get where he is today. Brown would not disappoint in this game.
Late in the first half, after consecutive layups in transition by Brandon Brown, and a three-pointer from Brandon Pineda-Morales, Phoenix College would jump out to a 34-25 lead with 2:37 left in the half. Then, just seconds later, 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Cameron Israel would get into the act - hitting a three-pointer from the corner to give his team their biggest lead of the game - a 39-31 lead with 1:58 left to play in the half.
Phoenix College would take a 39-33 lead into halftime.
Arizona Western's Ali Faruqbey would get his team back into the game quickly in the second half - knocking down a three-pointer and making the score 48-44.
Sharp-shooting 6-foot sophomore guard Jake Cipolletti would get into the game and quickly knock down a three-pointer to give Phoenix College a narrow one-point lead, 55-54, with 11:40 left to play in regulation.
But Phoenix College would climb back in it. A strong, two-hand dunk by Pineda-Morales, a 25-foot three-pointer from Jake Cipolletti, a floater from Derreck Brooks, and a long-range three-pointer from Brandon Brown, and Phoenix College would tie the contest at 80 all with 1 minute left to play.
After some clutch baskets and free-throws by both teams, Brandon Brown would get fouled on the inbounds and head to the free-throw line with :01 seconds remainning in the game. Brown would hit both free-throws and send the game to overtime, tied at 84 all.
In the overtime period, PC's Brandon Brown and AWC's Ali Faruqbey would go at it - scoring back and forth for their respective teams. Faruqbey would put AWC ahead 91-90 with 1:32 remaining after a driving layup. But after a driving basket from Derreck Brooks, then a big-time mid-range jumper from Brandon Brown, Phoenix College would take a 94-91 lead with just seconds to play. 6-foot-10 sophomore post Joel Feigler would then seal the victory for Phoenix College with 2 free-throws with 2.9 seconds to play.
Phoenix College would play their best game of the season - defeating Arizona Western JC, 96-92.
Brandon Brown would finish with a team-high 28 points and 4 assists, while Derreck Brooks would contribute 21 points and 9 rebounds in the victory. Jake Cipolletti would finish with 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting from three-point distance.
Arizona Western JC 6-foot sophomore guard Anthony Alston would finish with a game-high 30 points in the loss, while Ali Faruqbey would pour in 29 points of his own.