South Mountain Junior College (15-14, 9-12) is playing well as of late, as winners of their last two games. But South needed a win against visiting Pima Junior College (18-11, 10-11) on Saturday evening to improve their position in the conference playoffs in a week.
Pima also needed a win after losing their last contest at Central Arizona on Wednesday. Despite another strong scoring output from their star 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Ben Gershman, who would finish with a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds, South Mountain would overcome a halftime deficit to Pima to win the contest in front of an excited crowd of home fans.
Pima head coach Brian Peabody has returned the Pima basketball program to respectability in a short period of time, since taking over at Pima just a short time ago. Pima was on cruise control this season until mid-January, when they would lose four conference games in a row. Since then, the Aztecs have been trying to gain a level of consistency before the conference playoffs.
Pima would lok good in the game's first half on Saturday - taking a 35 to 29 lead into the half, behind the strong first half play of Gershman. While both teams would struggle from the field in the game's first half, you knew it was just a matter of time for both ballclubs to get it going in the second half.
With 6 minutes left to play in the first half, 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Brian Cervantes would give Pima a nice lead, 66-61, after scoring inside. Then with 3:53 left to play, Gershman would fire a three-pointer as the shot-clock buzzer would go off. Gershman would knock down the big three-point attempt after being fouled. After Gershman would miss the free-throw, Pima would take a 69-63 lead.
But South Mountain, behind an ignited crowd of fans, would come back big late in the final 3 minutes of the game. With 1:58 left to play, 6-foot-5 sophomore post Monnard Brown would complete a strong three-point play after being fouled in transition. The free-throw by Brown would tie the game at 70 all.
Then Gershman would score a nice fade-away jump-shot over a defender from the wing while falling out of bounds to give Pima a 72-70 lead with 1:14 left in the game.
Pima would shoot a mere 37% from the free-throw line in the game's second half, which would lead to their demise late in the contest. After a missed free-throw on a 1-and-1 situation from Brian Cervantes with just seconds left to play, South Mountain would rebound the basketball and South guard Nathan Henderson would dribble up the floor. Henderson would dribble into the lane - finding Monnard Brown inside for a layup with just 3.7 seconds left to play, and giving South Mountain a one-point lead, 73-72.
After Pima would call a timeout, they would inbound the basketball, only to turn the ball over at halfcourt - giving South Mountain the big 75-72 victory.
Monnard Brown would finish with a team-high 25 points and 10 rebounds in the win, while sophomore guard Kevin Kelly (pictured) would also finish with 22 points.
South Mountain will now host Arizona Western on Tuesday evening, while Pima will host Scottsdale JC.