Cochise season ends shy of region title

Cochise College Men’s Basketball team standing together in the middle of the court.

By Steve Stockmar

Usually it’s the Cochise Apaches lighting up the scoreboard as one of the nation’s highest scoring clubs. At the worst possible moment, in a playoff elimination game, on Monday night it was the other guys.

The Apaches, ranked No. 25 in the NJCAA, lost to Arizona Western 100-93 in the Region 1 Championship game in Yuma. AWC entered as the bracket’s 1-seed and was hosting 2-seed Cochise, which topped 3-seed Mesa in this past Saturday night’s semifinal.

The championship game marked just the second time this season that an opponent has scored 100 points on Cochise. Pima beat the Apaches 110-102 during the regular season back on Feb. 15.

“They were able to score easily in the second half,” said Cochise head coach Jerry Carrillo, who added that the Apaches’ two leading scorers — co-ACCAC Player of the Year Dallas Polk-Hilliard and Shadeed Shabazz — both battled foul trouble throughout, and the team “never really got on track.”

The Matadors’ Torrin Webb had a huge game Monday night, pouring in 24 points for the new Region 1 champions. Cochise had won the region title the past two years and was bidding for a three-peat.

Instead, it will be Arizona Western moving on.

The Mats will host the District round next, at which they’ll welcome the Region 18 champion to Yuma. That winner will advance to the NJCAA Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, starting March 20.

The Apaches will bid farewell to a sophomore group that won 51 games in two seasons and advanced to back-to-back Region 1 Championship games.

“A game here or a game there and we could have been playing at home tonight,” said Carrillo, whose team went 17-0 on their home floor in Douglas this winter. “Hats off to Arizona Western. They beat us fair and square.”