Reece Honanie likes a good challenge, especially early in the season.
Honanie contributed 13 points coming off the bench to help the Flagstaff Eagles stave off the scrappy Estrella Foothills Wolves on the way to a 63-51 win Tuesday in Flagstaff's War Memorial Gymnasium.
Flagstaff's Mikaila Kayaani-Lee led all scorers with 18 points and Monique Ware added 17 for the Eagles, who improved to 2-0 to start the season. The Wolves, who had won their first two games coming in, had no answer for Ware, a senior, and Honanie, a junior, as the two combined to keep Flagstaff out front during the game between the two 4A Conference teams.
“Tonight, I felt like we had that chemistry because we were both playing really hard to win this game,” Honanie said.
Flagstaff's three leading scorers pushed their team to a 50-31 lead courtesy of a 14-4 run that saw Kayaani-Lee score four straight, Ware hit a three and Honanie get a bucket under the rim on an inbounds pass from Ware to cap off the eruption. Hailey Armus, who lit up Foothills last season with 15 points, ended her night with 11 this time, as only two other Eagles connected for a field goal.
“We knew we were not going to be given anything, and we knew they would be better than they were last year," said Eagles head coach Tyrone Johnson, whose team routed the Wolves 81- 56 for its highest scoring effort of the 2016-17 regular season.
Flagstaff never trailed, but Foothills didn't let up, getting within five a couple times thanks to controlling the boards and putting up second-chance opportunities. Just before halftime, the Wolves cut the deficit to 25-20 after capitalizing on an offense rebound, but the Eagles answered with a quick 7-0 run to re-establish momentum heading into the break.
“We were fortunate that we did enough in the beginning and then held them off, but we got a long way to go, we haven’t arrived," Johnson said.
The press defense from Foothills nagged Flagstaff throughout the night. It was the kind of team the Eagles needed to see early in the season, especially after several players came in rusty from missing court time from the holiday break.
“It was a good experience to play with scrappy players -- I mean, I play scrappy as well,” Honanie said.
The struggles also came at the free-throw line for the Eagles, who hit just five of 15 attempts.
Shots wouldn't fall for the Wolves early in the game despite good looks. Ware and Kayaani-Lee, each hitting a 3-pointer for their first baskets of the game, put Flagstaff ahead 8-0 early as Foothills couldn't get shots to fall, even on second and third chances. Ware picked off a pass and turned it into an assist to Honanie, and the Eagles took a 14-4 lead with 1:50 to go in the first quarter.
Ware hardly came out of the game for rest as Johnson wanted to test his ace guard and his veterans early in the season.
“Part of it was by design. We want to see when we are playing a quality team if we have the stamina to stay up or is our production going to go up or down individually or collectively," Johnson said.
Flagstaff plays away from its home court for the first time this season when they take on the Mohave Thunderbirds for a Grand Canyon Region game on Friday.