The squeak of sneakers on the hardwood now echoes through the halls of the Flagstaff High School gym.
Basketball is back.
The Flagstaff Eagles girls basketball team has been preparing to open its 2017-2018 season after last season’s 58-39 4A Conference semifinal loss to Cactus Shadows. Eagles head coach Tyrone Johnson said he isn’t worried about last season’s defeat in the state tournament nor the loss of leading scorer Noni Thomas and three-year point guard Mikala Begoody.
“We feel what we lost, but the expectation is the show must go on,” Johnson said on replacing production from last season. “We make sure they understand that they are part of something special. You’re going to have to bring it if you really want to be a part of it on the floor.”
Last season, the Eagles finished with a 27-6 overall record that included tournament play outside of games that affect the power points and 11-1 in the Grand Canyon Region.
Replicating last season’s success hinges on replacing Thomas and Begoody’s production and leadership.
Senior guards Monique Ware and Mikaila Kayaani-Lee are two players who will try to fill the void -- and more.
While running shooting drills at a recent practice, Kayaani-Lee was vocal in pushing and encouraging her teammates to go as hard they could. Kayaani-Lee said this is something she regularly tries to do.
“I try and encourage everybody, to push them and have them push me, too,” she said.
Johnson said the team will run point guard by committee and he envisions Kayaani-Lee finding a role at point this season. But Johnson said he sees her in other roles because, like past years, there is no player taller than 6 feet on the roster, something Johnson said the team is accustomed to.
“Mikaila will do a lot,” Johnson said. “She has to be versatile. Depending on the lineup, she may have to be down in the post, she may have to be up on the wings.”
Throughout practice earlier this week, Johnson made it clear that pace is what will set the team apart. Pace on the defensive end of the floor, which then transitions into their up-tempo style of offense, is what he wants out of the Eagles this season. Johnson said he wants his team to utilize Flagstaff’s high elevation to its advantage.
“We can’t ever be in a game or in the middle of the game and look like elevation is new to us,” he said. “We definitely emphasize it because in our transition, whether it’s defense or offense, it’s a race to space. If we can get out and get in their head and push the ball, and we can kick and we can have open catch-and-shoots, I think we can make a good percent of those.”
The Eagles open their season at home against Bradshaw Mountain at 5:30 p.m. Monday.