Arizona Western (14-7, 7-4) came into Tuesday evening's match-up with South Mountain Junior College (6-12, 1-9), looking to keep pace in the Division-I ACCAC standings. Arizona Western came into the game after an overtime loss to top-ranked Eastern Arizona on Saturday (79-77), so they were looking to get back into the win column, but would have to overcome a strong effort from South Mountain on their home floor.
South Mountain has been led all season by the heroic effort this season of 6-foot-4, 185-pound sophomore Jaylen Wesley who ranks as the top scorer in the ACCAC, and second in the NJCAA in scoring with an eye-popping 27.2 points per/game. Wesleyu also leads the ACCAC in rebounding with 10.7 rebounds per/game. Wesley would get some help on Tuesday, as 6-foot, 155-pound freshman guard Bobby Holcomb would return to the lineup, after being out with an injury. The addition of Holcomb would be big for South Mountain Head Coach Dan Nichols and his staff on the evening.
After a strong driving layup from Wesley, and then a steal by Wesley and a layup in transition, South Mountain would jump out to a 22-18 lead over AWC with 6:57 left to play in the first half.
After a three-point play by talented 6-foot-1 sophomore guard AJ Marmolejos (pictured), and then consecutive baskets inside the paint from 6-foot-8 sophomore LaRoi Glover, Arizona Western would storm back to within one point of SMCC, before an assists from Holcomb to Wesley for a layup. After a three-pointer from Holcomb would tie the contest with :33 seconds remaining in the half, Holcomb would then throw a toss over his shoulder at the buzzer that would swish through the basket, giving South Mountain a 35-33 lead at halftime.
In the second half, South Mountain would gain confidence after a three-pointer from the wing from 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Nyzhir Brown. After a mid-range jumper from Holcomb, SMCC would take a 45-40 lead with 15 minutes left to play. Holcomb would then connect on a three-pointer to give South Mountain their biggest lead of the contest, 48-40.
But Arizona Western would insert 5-foot-10 freshman guard Jannoy Thomas back into the lineup, and Thomas would immediately score off a dribble-drive to the basket with his left hand over a defender. Thomas would play inspired basketball and settle things down for AWC, moving AJ Marmolejos off the ball and allowing him to score effectively down the stretch for Arizona Western. Arizona Western would go on a 11-0 run and take back the lead, 51-48, after another driving basket by Thomas.
Arizona Western would then cruise to a nice 77-68 win on the road, in what was a much better game than the score showed. Aj Marmelejos would finish the game with a team-high 21 points and 11 rebounds, while 6-foot-8 sophomore Matija Gledic would finish with 14 points and 12 rebounds also in the victory. Jaylen Wesley would finish with 23 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in the loss, while Bobby Holcomb would contribute 22 points also in the loss.
"They are a much better team than their record," said Arizona Western Head Coach Kyle Isaacs after the game.