Top-rated Cochise College has hit their stride at the right time of the season, recently taking over the top spot in the ACCAC. Cochise (22-5, 14-5) was coming off a nice come-from-behind road win over Scottsdale JC on Wednesday, but on Saturday afternoon Cochise would face the conference's hottest team at South Mountain CC.
South Mountain (16-11, 12-7) entered Saturday's match-up as winners of their last 4 games in a row, and playing their best basketball of the season. These two programs would make for an exciting contest, in what would become the best junior college game I have seen this season.
Cochise would struggle early as a team to slow down South Mountain JC. South Mountain has been led all season by a trio of players - 6-foot-9 sophomore post Connor MacDougall (University of New Mexico signee), 6-foot-4 freshman wing Terrence Johnson and 6-foot sophomore guard Jackson Price. This talented trio would have their work cut out on Saturday against a high intensity defensive-minded Cochise team.
With Cochise struggling early to keep pace with South Mountain, tough sophomore guard Jeffrey Long would keep Cochise in the contest with some sharp three-point shooting. South Mountain would be led early by the play of MacDougall and also 5-foot-10 sophomore point guard Desmon Johnson. After a third three-pointer from Jeffrey Long from the corner, Cochise would take the lead, 23-22, with 9:10 left to play in the first half.
Connor MacDougall would keep South in the hunt after a power one-handed dunk on the break, and then a three-point play in the post. After a mid-range jumper from MacDougall, a three-pointer from seldom-utilized freshman forward Gavin Wood would ignite South, as they would keep pace with Cochise in the first half.
In the second half, 6-foot-6 sophomore wing Justin Jones would knock down consecutive three-pointers . Then consecutive offensive rebounds by Jones would lead to a three-pointer from 5-foot-9 sophomore guard Arell Hennings. Hennings' three-pointer would give Cochise their biggest lead of the game, 57-49.
South would not lay down though. Behind the strong play on both ends by MacDougall, South would stay focused on the task at hand. Two three-pointers from Jackson Price and Gavin Wood would bring South Mountain back to within 2 points of Cochise, 57-55.
Over the next 11 minutes of action, both teams would play some of the best basketball I have seen all season. MacDougall would command the basketball in the post - looking like a serious steal for New Mexico head coach Craig Neal. MacDougall's low-post footwork and ability to play amongst double-teams, was impressive. While Arell Hennings would heat up for Cochise, MacDougall would play like a man possessed. A strong, two-handed dunk by MacDougall and a another strong three-point play inside would tie the game with Cochise, 81-81, with :31 seconds left to play.
After a missed shot attempt by Cochise, the game would go into overtime.
In overtime, both teams continue to fire on all cylinders - both scoring the basketball at a high rate. Arell Hennings, as he did in Wednesday's victory for Cochise, would ignite in overtime - knocking down consecutive, big three-point shots. After a an offensive rebound and put-back from Cochise 6-foot-5 freshman forward Chaz Mack, Mack would collect the most important rebound of the game with 1.2 seconds left to play to give Cochise the overtime road win - 98-95.
Connor MacDougall would play his heart out, finishing with a game-high 31 points, 23 rebounds and 5 assists in the loss. Jackson Price would finish with 18 points and 4 assists.
Cochise would be led again by Arell Hennings with a team-high 26 points and 4 assists, while Jeffrey Long would pour in 22 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
Arizona Western JC lost to Pima JC on Saturday, so Cochise is now in sole control of first place in the ACCAC.