As expected, three local basketball teams earned home games in the 4A Conference state tournaments beginning on Thursday.
What came as a surprise was the fourth finding a way to remain in town on Friday.
With the play-in round pairings released Wednesday morning, the No. 11 Coconino boys basketball team found out it would be hosting the No. 22 Flagstaff Eagles on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Despite a 16-3 overall record and victory over the rival Eagles to end the regular season last week, Coconino slid from No. 10 to No. 11 overnight in the final rankings. Meanwhile, Flagstaff fell to No. 22 from No. 19 after losing six of seven to end the regular season, including a home loss to No. 20 Washington to finish the schedule, and wound up with a 10-9 overall record.
The rankings of the two schools seemed to invoke confusion across town, as the AIA's ranking system happened to keep the pair of rivals in town against one another while also keeping Rio Rico and Nogales, separated by 12 miles, as a play-in game as well.
Flagstaff slipped just behind No. 21 St. Mary's with a rating of 2.2492 compared to the Knights' 2.2706. St. Mary's holds one of the toughest average opponent ratings in the state, allowing the 6-13 Knights to make the playoffs despite their record.
Meanwhile, Dysart rose up multiple spots despite last playing on Feb. 1, jumping Coconino, who also remained idle since its Feb. 2 win against Flagstaff. The Panthers' 6.8395 kept them just behind 12-6 Noagles' 6.9198 and 15-3 Dysart's 7.0800.
The slight change in rankings kept both Flagstaff and Rio Rico from nearly five-hour bus rides on Friday and allowed both games to fill a gym with two fan bases.
The first two meetings between Coconino and Flagstaff were decided by a combined three points, with a 3-pointer by Emilio Esquivel ending the first meeting with a 59-58 loss for the Panthers on Jan. 9 before Harding Eddie's buzzer-beating 3 snapped an 11-game losing streak to Flagstaff with a 49-47 victory.
On the girls side of the bracket, both Flagstaff and Coconino will wait to find out their first-round opponents following the result of Thursday's play-in games between teams ranked No. 9 through No. 24. Both teams will host games on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. and will find out their opponents and final rankings on Saturday.
If both schools win their opening-round games, the teams would also likely meet for a third time this year. Flagstaff finished the season No. 3 before the AIA listed the top 8 in alphabetical order Wednesday, with Coconino formerly at No. 6. Flagstaff beat Coconino 66-37 on Jan. 9 before the 54-21 victory on its home court on Feb. 2.
The Eagles wrapped the regular season at 18-1 with their lone loss coming to No. 13 Cactus Shadows. The Panthers, meanwhile, ended up at 16-3 in the regular season, suffering a loss to 3A Page in addition to the two losses to Eagles.