Once Flagstaff was able to get a bucket to fall from 3-point range, the team made it rain on the way to a win in the opening round of the 4A Conference state championship tournament.
Emma Doskicz recorded a team-high 15 points on five 3s, Josephine Faull and Gracelyn Nez each finished with 12 and the seventh-seeded Eagles gave the Rio Rico Hawks a taste of their own medicine on Wednesday at Flagstaff High School, overcoming a slow start for the 67-54 victory.
After both teams struggled to find shots and keep control of the ball in the first quarter, Flagstaff's Hailey Armus drilled a 3 in the corner off a pass from Doskicz, pushing her team to a 12-7 lead. No. 10 Rio Rico answered on offense in the early minutes of the second stanza as the teams traded points, but another Armus second-quarter trey sparked an Eagles 12-2 outburst the Hawks would never recover from.
“It felt good because I want my team to get a good running start to be able to play well, and I want my teammates to play well around me because that way it’s team basketball, and team basketball leads to wins, and that’s what happened tonight,” said Armus, who finished with eight points.
Flagstaff hit five 3s in the opening half to take a 27-18 lead into the break. Meanwhile, Rio Rico, a team that lives by the long-range shot, totaled five 3-pointers for the game as the host ended its night with 10 total.
Sheridan Edgewater had 11 points and Aaliah Tsosie tallied seven, and Flagstaff (17-3) produced just its third game of the season scoring 67 or more points.
“I think once they saw the ball fall a little bit, it relaxed them a little bit and they were able to do what we do," said Eagles head coach Tyrone Johnson. "It’s a state tournament game, you are nervous and tentative, but you can’t be like that. Once Armus and Doskicz loosened up the rims a little bit, everyone else found their success.”
Rio Rico wrapped up its year with a 15-4 record. The pesky Hawks failed to put together scoring runs, but used a 5-0 surge late in the game to cut the deficit to nine.
Tsosie hit most her free throws down the stretch, and Edgewater's bucket from beyond the arc with under three minutes to play was the dagger that put her team ahead 61-48.
Flagstaff led by as much as 17 three times in the fourth quarter, first reaching the mark with 5:45 to play when Edgewater found Tsosie for an inside layup.
Nez didn't start the game, but as soon as she entered midway through the opening quarter, she made an impact. With the teams tied at 4-all with 3:20 on the clock in the first quarter, Nez connected from inside the paint to give Flagstaff a lead it would not relinquish. Nez then found Doskicz for her first 3 of the night.
Nez hit a 3 to make it 35-24 in the third quarter, and she got the Eagles going with an assist to Faull to open the second-half scoring.
Doskicz stepped into a buzzer-beating 3 in the third quarter, and Flagstaff, now on an eight-game win streak, took a 47-35 lead into the final period. Rio Rico kept up its attack from the perimeter, but couldn't manage to get them to fall as its deficit grew.
Rio Rico was led by 26 points from Luisayde Chavez. The Hawks connected just once from behind the arc in the first half.
“In the first half, we forced them into tough opportunities, and that’s what we want to do," Johnson said. "We also controlled the boards, and those things were big. Those things were part of the game plan, making sure they are taking tough 2s and never have a chance to get any rhythm with 3s. I thought most of the game we did a good job of doing that.”
Flagstaff will be on the road for round two when it takes on perennial powerhouse second-seeded Seton Catholic Prep, which routed Arcadia 60-20 to advance and took a 55-45 win over the Eagles back in December.