Despite heading into halftime with a one-point lead, the Flagstaff Eagles kept their energy up, and K.P. Kortsen sent it to another level with a third-quarter slam dunk.
Kortsen ended his night with 12 points, six coming in the third, and Flagstaff regained control of the game out of the break on the way to topping the Lee Williams Volunteers at home Tuesday, 57-43, in a 4A Conference, Grand Canyon Region contest.
"The play that comes to mind is when K.P. comes down off the baseline and hits that dunk. I think from that point on, that's what elevated us to carry over what we had in the third into the fourth," said Eagles head coach Nick Walton, whose team improved to 3-1 overall and remained perfect in the region standings at 3-0 with the win.
Ramsey Penza added to the third-quarter excitement, hitting a long 3-pointer from beyond the half-court line as the buzzer sounded to put his team ahead 44-35. The junior ended his night with a team-high 16 points, matching Marco Anotonio Narvarte's total for Lee Williams, which fell to 2-2.
"Last year we were a third-quarter team and I see that again this year," Kortsen said.
Flagstaff, which spoiled Lee Williams' region opener, drained just two 3s as much of the game was decided inside the paint. Kortsen set the tone early under the basket, getting two blocks and a steal as his team went up 10-0 before Anotonio Narvarte, a deaf player and honorable mention at defensive lineman, stopped the bleeding with a free throw.
Penza wasn't the only Flagstaff player to hit a long-distance buzzer-beater. Coming off the bench for the Eagles, Hampton Olney, who ended his night with eight points, drained his 3 at the end of the first quarter to give his team the 17-8 lead.
Lee Williams, coming off an overtime loss to 2A Northland Prep, took its first of two leads on the night late in the second quarter thanks to a 6-1 run that followed a 6-0 run minutes later. Penza went coast to coast to keep the energy high and retake the lead heading into the break.
"Lee Williams, we knew they were coming in with some size, so we knew that if we could control the boards and limit them to one shot we would have success," Walton said.
Narvarte put his team ahead once more to start the new half, as he ended his third quarter with six as well, but Flagstaff slowed him down to just three in the fourth as it started controlling the boards.
Not long after he went up for his emphatic dunk that got the crowd hitting higher decibel levels, Kortsen recorded a block, hustled down the court and found Olney for a layup that put the Eagles up 37-29.
"It was our energy that kept us in the game. Teams are going to make runs on you, and you have to be able to counter," Walton said.
The lead opened up in the fourth quarter during a 10-2 Flagstaff run that ended with Narvarte completing a three-point play at the charity stripe. Just before the surge ended, Penza scored four straight for the Eagles, banking in a jumper and extending the lead to a comfortable 54-37. Flagstaff led by as many as 17 points in the final frame.
"Those little runs win games, so we have to keep doing that every game and we will be solid," Kortsen said.
Troy Yazzie, one of many juniors on Flagstaff's roster, contributed 13 points, with the team ending the night with three players in double digits. Sean Estes added four. Yazzie also was a part of the early defensive effort, getting a steal and turning it into a basket during the 10-0 run.
Despite all the action inside, Flagstaff couldn't use the foul line to its advantage, hitting just 5 of 12. Lee Williams did not fare much better at the line, going 7 for 16.
Flagstaff now turns its attention to its annual Pepsi Holiday Tournament, which is set to begin Thursday. The team will return to regular-season action Monday, when it takes on the Prescott Badgers for a region game in Prescott.