With a pair of seniors earning all-tournament honors, the hosting Flagstaff Eagles won their fourth straight Pepsi Holiday Tournament title with a 62-34 victory over St. Mary’s Saturday night.
Along with sweeping the Pepsi tourney for their careers, Monique Ware and Mikaila Kayaani-Lee were named to the all-tournament team for their performances in Flagstaff’s undefeated title run. Ware scored a game-high 25 points in just three quarters of play and Kayaani-Lee finished with nine points.
“I think my team has a lot of potential. And usually, when I see them not doing what they are supposed to be doing, I give them tough love,” Ware said. “But most of the support comes from the bench and just telling everyone on the bench to keep the energy up.”
Eagles head coach Tyrone Johnson said Ware’s performance is what they expect of her, and spoke about how the senior has grown into a more well-rounded leader for the Eagles.
“(Ware) has been special all year in the sense that her leadership skills have stepped up, she’s holding people accountable in practice. She’s not just leading vocally, but she’s leading by example,” Johnson said. “She’s really just stepping into her own and it’s what we were expecting. It’s something she can do on a consistent basis. She has the potential to be a match-up nightmare with her willingness to pass to a teammate, her speed and her ability to finish.”
Ware and Kayaani-Lee scored the Eagles' first 11 points of the game to take an early 11-5 advantage. Flagstaff ended the first quarter with a 24-11 lead and had already made six 3-pointers, three by Kayaani-Lee alone. Then, Flagstaff had foul trouble early, as Kayaani-Lee received three personal fouls by the midway point of the second quarter. Backup guard Emma Doskicz provided solid minutes with Kayaani-Lee in foul trouble as she finished the game with 14 points and four triples.
Johnson took note of the production of the second unit as well as Dosckicz’s performance.
“They know that when they are called upon it’s time for them to maximize their opportunity, maximize their minutes,” Johnson said. “I thought (Doskicz) came in and she finally settled in and started producing like we know that she can.”
Flagstaff was challenged by St. Mary’s early in the game as the Eagles only led by seven points late in the second quarter after being up as much as 19. A 9-0 run by St. Mary's in the second pushed Flagstaff back to a double-digit lead at the end of the first half, 38-22.
Flagstaff continued to build their lead and had their largest advantage of the game late in the third quarter at 57-24.
Starting the day with a 58-42 victory against Tuba City, the Eagles jumped out to a nine-point lead in the opening two minutes and never trailed as they locked up their place in the Pepsi tournament final.
Flagstaff’s five starters -- Hailey Armus, Ashley Edison, Josephine Faull, Kayaani-Lee and Ware -- led the way during the victory. Spending roughly 16:30 on the floor together, the group outscored Tuba City 43-8.
After taking a 14-4 lead, the five went to the bench with Tuba City creeping back within five, 16-11, to end the first quarter. Returning to the court for nearly the first six minutes of the second quarter, Flagstaff’s starting five built the lead to 32-15.
“I think we have a potential to go deep in our bench. We really emphasize in practice that we've got to be our best competition," Johnson said. "We've really got to create that environment and that atmosphere where we are going at each other and competing hard so that when they get out there it isn’t new to them.”
With the score 36-17 at halftime, the Eagles tacked on another seven points through the first four minutes of the third quarter. Beginning with 3:25 left in the second quarter, Flagstaff went on a 16-2 run before Tuba City scored six straight starting eight minutes later.
Kayaani-Lee led the Eagles with 13 points while Ware and Faull added nine apiece. Armus added eight, with Edison and Reece Honanie scoring six points each.
After Tuba City cut the lead down to 52-35 with 4:20 left, Johnson subbed the team’s starters back in for a two-minute stretch in which they kept the Warriors scoreless and added six quick points to their total. Tuba City scored the final seven points of the game in the last two minutes before the final buzzer.
The Eagles (9-0) travel to Prescott to play the Grand Canyon Region opponent (4-5) Monday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.
Playing in one of the two games between second-place pool finishers, the Coconino Panthers faced off against the Maricopa Rams and won 48-43 Saturday afternoon.
The Panthers travel to face the Mohave Thunderbirds Monday at 5:30 p.m.