Matadors take on ACCAC top seed for trip to District Championship game
YUMA, Ariz., (KYMA, KECY) - One year ago, the Cochise Apaches came into The House Gymnasium and pulled out a wild win to cut down the nets as Region I champions, while ending the season for Arizona Western.
Turning the calendar to 2023, the Matadors get another chance to extend their run and vie for a national tournament run and take over the party in Douglas.
Now one year wiser with a stellar returning bunch who felt the pain of defeat a year ago, coach Kyle Isaacs' squad has their eyes on a goal they set forth in August when they stepped foot on campus.
"This is what we put our mind and our goal to back on August 16th when all of our student athletes arrived here, was we have 30 guaranteed games, and anything after that is just bonus basketball," said Isaacs. "Now we got survive and advance playoff basketball which is the best kind of basketball anyone could ask for. You try to put yourself in the best position you can to be successful and just go out there and give your heart and everything we got. And as long as we do that, the chips will fall where they fall."
After a 90-82 win over Eastern Arizona on Saturday to advance, the Matadors get another shot at the team that ended their 2021-22 season and who knocked them out twice in this regular season, including an overtime loss at home back on January 25th.
But once the calendar flipped to February, the Matadors have pulled out 10 straight wins to set themselves up for vengeance on Monday night.
A lot of credit going to sophomore Yaxel Lendeborg who lit up the stat sheet - leading the entire country in rebounds per game (12.9) - and the help of Evan Butts' 12.2 points per game and second half surge from Marquis Hargrove who averaged 20 points per game in the month of February.
The sophomore star power going along with the increasing presence from players off the bench in a deep roster for coach Isaacs - who has now won 51 games in just his first two season at the helm.
A win would give the program its 21st Region I title - first since 2018. It would also send them to the DIstrict Final for a shot at the NJCAA tournament - something the program has done 15 times in its 60 years of existence.
Tip-off is set for 7pm MST Monday night with full coverage and postgame reaction from Douglas on News 11 at 10 pm and on KYMA.com/sports.