Barn burner at Bell Center leaves Cacti on top

Anthony Rice shoots for two points to tie the game with 7:43 minutes left.

JOSHUA TREE — “It was one for the books,” said Copper Mountain College assistant coach Britain Kelly in an email Saturday.

Kelly was referring to a basketball battle between the Fighting Cacti men and the nationally-ranked Arizona Western College at the Bell Center in Joshua Tree Friday night.

A few bad passes by CMC and some good shooting by Arizona left the Fighting Cacti down by eight points at the half, 44-36.

“The Fighting Cacti fans definitely got their money’s worth, it was an intense first half,” said Kelly.

CMC settled down in the second half and slowly but surely narrowed the gap until, with 10:49 to go, they tied the score at 56-all.

“Copper Mountain would make a very impressive push in the second half, stringing together several defensive stops led by freshman guard Will Valsien and sophomore forward Dominique Anderson,” said Kelly.

For the next three minutes of play, the two teams traded the lead back and forth, until at 67-64, the Fighting Cacti began to slowly increase their lead, never again to relinquish it. With a minute to go, CMC was ahead 81-73.

The last minute was played in 4-second increments with Arizona fouling as fast as possible, hoping CMC would miss their free throws. CMC didn’t miss many, and they beat Arizona with a final score of 88-80.

“Game-sealing rebounds and free throws down the stretch would secure the win for the Fighting Cacti,” said Kelly.

Sophomore point guard Anthony Rice, who was the top scorer in Wednesday’s game against Barstow, was again the top scorer Friday with 25 points and eight assists.

Freshman wing Isayas Aris scored 18 points (14 in the second half) and freshman Dillon Voyles scored 12 points with six rebounds.

CMC improves to 3-2 on the year.

The team’s Saturday game at Santa Monica College was canceled due to poor air quality from the fires. The next event on the men’s schedule is an Allan Hancock College round robin Nov. 16-19 in Santa Monica.

The CMC women’s team will hold their home opener at 6 p.m. Friday against Gavilan College.

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