Originally Published: December 1, 2002 10 a.m.
PRESCOTT – The Yavapai College men's basketball team will battle Carrot Top for fans, and Arizona Western for first place.
Yes, the YC campus should be an interesting venue Saturday night as the zany entertainer Carrot Top takes care of a soldout crowd of 1,159 fans at the Yavapai Performing Arts Center at precisely the same time (7:30) that Brooks Thompson's entertaining Roughriders meet AWC in a showdown of unbeaten ACCAC teams across campus at the Storm Center.
Prior to the men, Brad Clifford's Yavapai women, winners of its last two games, tip off against Pat Cunningham's Lady Matadors, who are fresh off a 78-73 win over powerful Central Arizona earlier in the week.
Arizona Western (3-3, 2-0)
at Yavapai (4-1, 3-0)
Don't let AWC's 3-3 overall record fool you. Kelly Green's Matadors lost to three very strong teams in preseason tournaments and are fresh off a 30-point rout of Central Arizona on Wednesday.
AWC started the season ranked No. 15 nationally, led by a pair of 6-feet-10-inch Brazilians and five players averaging in double figures.
But the Roughriders have a few credentials of their own. YC's only loss came to a superb Chaffey, Calif. team and the locals have won all three of their conference games by double-digits.
Both coaches are proceeding with caution when sizing the game's importance. And while some caution is in order, the winner will for the time being own the distinction of being the conference's most feared – if not best – team.
"We return one starter and everyone makes us the preseason favorites," Green said. "I don't think that's necessarily accurate."
If it's not accurate, it's close.
Both of Western's big men, Michel Nascimento and Jefferson Antonio, not only 6-10 but run the floor gracefully and have excellent shooting touches. Key on them and there's the team's best athlete in small forward Shay Rockett to deal with and guard Mark Jones.
"They're a fabulous team," Thompson said Thursday morning while trying to shake off a bout with the flu.
"Their two big Brazilian guys will be a great test for Jay McFarland, Mattias (Johansson), Larry (Owens) and Jesse (Mitchell). But I do think this team has some confidence after the way we've played in conference. We've made our share of mistakes, but I think we've learned from them. I guess we'll find out how much we've learned Saturday night."
Negating much of Yavapai's terrific play has been its horrific foul shooting. The Roughriders converted just 9 of 27 in Wednesday's romp over Chandler/Gilbert and are hitting only 54% on the young season.
"On one hand it scares me to death," Thompson said. "But we make them in practice, so I really think it's just a mental thing right now. If this team is going to go to the next level we'll have to improve in that area. But our guys are too good of shooters to only hit 50%. I'm confident we'll come out of it."
Arizona Western (5-1, 2-0)
at Yavapai (3-3, 2-1)
With plenty of new players on the Arizona Western squad, YC coach Brad Clifford admits he's no expert on the Lady Matadors.
But "78-73" is all he needed to see.
That was AWC's winning score of Central Arizona on Wednesday as Pat Cunningham's team looks for back-to-back trips to the NJCAA national tournament.
"Pat told me before that they might be a little bit down this year," Clifford said. "But after seeing that score ..."
AWC has four 6-footers on its roster, with players from Australia, Mexico and two from the Dominican Republic now at the Yuma campus.
Meanwhile, Yavapai bounced back nicely from a conference-opening loss at Phoenix with a pair of 50%-+ shooting outings.
"I think we've definitely found our niche and that is run whenever possible and go inside when all else fails," Clifford said.
"Making layups is easy, and that's what we need to do. We're still only 28% from threes. But I just don't think this is that type of team."
Yavapai's sophomore post Molly Schamel is averaging a double-double, and the Lady Roughriders will need a big effort against the big Matadors from 6-feet-2-inch backup Lorie LeMay, who was a force in the paint against Chandler/Gilbert.
Following Saturday's game Yavapai's men and women head to Thatcher to meet Eastern Arizona Tuesday night.