By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – The Pima Roughriders (22-2 overall, 9-0 region) notched their 12th consecutive win by running and gunning all over the Safford Bulldogs (6-15 overall, 2-3 region) on Thursday, 69-44.
Safford opened up with a 3-0 lead after Payson Harsh hit the first of three 3-pointers on the night. However, it would be the only lead of the game for the Bulldogs.
Pima struck back by tossing the ball down low to its big men and Jarrett Kartchner and Dawson Pruszynski had a field day scoring a game-high 21 and 19 points, respectively.
When Pima was decimating Safford’s zone defense in the half-court game, its fast break offense showcased its speed scoring more than 20 points off fast breaks that took an average of less than three seconds per possession.
“I liked how we bounce back,” said head coach Cliff Thompson. “We came in mentally ready for this game after I felt like we weren’t ready in the last game we played . . . I was happy with the way we played in the first half.”
Coach Thompson was referencing Tuesday night’s game at the St. David Tigers (13-7 overall, 6-1 region), which Pima won 48-36.
Justin Kartchner, who injured his ankle/achiles heel area against Willcox sat out the game and Tre Thomas stepped up in his place with 10 points, including a couple of 3-pointers. Kartchner and coach Thompson both said he should be available for Friday night’s home contest against rival Thatcher.
“I anticipate that he’ll probably play,” coach Thompson said. “He’s not 100 percent but it’s a big game and we’ve got time after the game, so he’s probably going to play.”
As the teams headed into the locker room for halftime, Pima led 38-15 and the outcome looked bleak for Safford.
The Bulldogs came out in the third quarter with a run of their own, however, and outscored the Roughriders 20-17 in the quarter, besting the amount they scored in the entire first half by five points.
Drew Cockran led the way for the Bulldogs with 14 points, followed by Harsh with 12 and Cody Polanco with eight.
The run was a little too late for the Bulldogs, however, and the game was comfortably in the hands of the Roughriders. By the mid-point of the fourth period, Pima emptied its bench and Safford soon followed suit. The players who work hard in practice day after day got to see some game-time action, and it was tight the rest of the way.
Dawson Pruszynski said the team has really rallied around each other in big games and likes their chances at taking state this year.
“I believe we have the best shot to do it,” he said.
Pima looks to sweep its season contests with the Thatcher Eagles (16-7 overall, 7-2 region) at home Friday at 7 p.m. Safford hopes to bounce back at home Friday against the Globe Tigers (14-9 overall, 1-4 region) at 7 p.m.