The Flagstaff boys basketball team's struggles to close out games down the stretch of the schedule continued on Tuesday against the Washington Rams.
Losing their regular-season finale, 75-69, and dropping their third straight game in the process, the 19th-ranked Eagles let a late third-quarter lead slip away to the No. 22 Rams at Flagstaff High School. Over the course of the three-game skid, Flagstaff, winners of just one of its last seven, has lost by a combined total of 11 points.
"Tough loss," said Eagles head coach Nick Walton. "We have to be disciplined down the stretch, fix the turnovers, little things. We gotta be able to close out games, and when we have leads be able to maintain control to the end. We are still learning that."
Ramsey Penza recorded a game-high 24 points for the Eagles, who in their last five losses never fell by more than six points. Teammate K.P. Kortsen followed with 15 points.
Both sparked the offense with slam dunks in the first half, which ended with the game locked up at 32-all after the Eagles overcame a nine-point deficit.
Penza's lone field goal of the opening quarter came a one-handed slam on an assist from Kortsen, and it snapped a Rams 11-0 run. The junior's drive baseline for his second jam of the night cut the deficit to 24-22 with 3:40 to go before halftime after the Eagles went into the second quarter down 16-9.
Kortsen's dunk came just before the first half ended, tying the game as Flagstaff went on a 5-0 run before going into the locker room.
Sparked by a Troy Yazzie 3-pointer that resulted in Flagstaff's third lead of the game, an 11-2 run came from the Eagles in the third quarter and ended with Flagstaff ahead 45-37. Penza's 3, his second of the night, put Flagstaff ahead 50-40 with 2:07 left in the third quarter, and Yazzie's pair of free throws gave his team its second 10-point lead of the night at 52-42.
Yazzie finished as the third Flagstaff player to record double-digit points at 14, adding two buckets from beyond the arc as well. He went 4 for 4 at the foul line, where Penza went 6 of 9 and the Eagles finished at 14 for 21.
Winners of three straight games to end their season as the 4A Conference heads into the state tournament play-in games, the Rams again began to penetrate with success and won the final quarter 29-17 to earn the win. Leading Washington in the closing eight minutes, seniors Orrlando Moore and Juan Cardenas combined for 19 fourth-quarter points as each ended up with double-digit scoring nights.
"They had great guard play," Walton said of the Rams.
Moore notched 22 points, and Cardenas added 12.
Flagstaff ended the regular season with a 10-9 overall record, and Washington went 11-7, making sure it secured a spot in the play-in round, which starts Friday.