A young Flagstaff Eagles team got a good dose of varsity girls basketball experience in its season opener against the Winslow Bulldogs on Tuesday.
Eagles freshman Miyah Verse had a team-high 16 points and went 8 for 8 at the free-throw line, senior teammate Emma Doskicz added 13 on a rusty shooting night and the Eagles fell to the Bulldogs at home in the War Memorial Gymnasium in a 49-47 barn burner that came down to the final seconds.
Kylie Begay finished with a game-high 17 points for the Bulldogs, who allowed the Eagles to erase a 15-point deficit and take a lead before the teams battled it out in the final quarter.
"Winslow is a quality club," Eagles head coach Tyrone Johnson said.
Winslow missed a pair of free throws with 4.9 seconds remaining in the game and Flagstaff pushed the ball down court, but failed to capitalize in the final seconds despite a try at the tie from Rebecca Encinas. Encinas provided the third and final tie of the fourth quarter, driving to the basket and hitting a short jumper to make it 44-all with 4:30 on the clock.
Then both teams went silent on offense after the Encinas hoop for nearly three minutes until Winslow took a 46-44 lead on Brianna Little's free throws that it would not relinquish the rest of the way.
Both teams showed signs of greatness blended with moments of disorder in the opener for both squads that reside in different conferences.
"When you got this many new faces and you don't have that much varsity experience, you are going to take some lumps and some lessons, and what a greater program to do it against than Winslow," Johnson said of his 4A Conference Eagles.
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Down 24-9 in the second quarter, Verse took her second trip of the period to the foul line with 3:54 on the clock. Her freebies sparked a 14-2 Flagstaff run that would end the half with the hosts trailing 26-23.
Verse kept the momentum going out of the break when she connected for a field goal off a pass from Gracelyn Nez, who finished her night with a strong effort on the boards to go with six points on two 3-pointers. Flagstaff went on a 10-0 run out of the halftime gates and regained the lead at 27-26 when Breonna Curtis made a field goal during the burst.
Doskicz hit three total buckets from beyond the arc but struggled overall shooting. Encinas ended her night with eight points.
Winslow, a 3A program, turned a back-and-forth affair in the early first quarter into their game with a 12-0 outburst that started with just under three minutes to go in the opening eight minutes.
All of the points from Nez came in the third quarter.
Flagstaff also was busy rearranging rotations.
"You see how they are going to handle game situations and who is good with the game flow, and then try to maximize on the effort and hope they continue playing well," Johnson said.
Sometimes, however, the Eagles were forced to make moves to the bench. Doskicz picked up her fourth foul with 32 seconds left to play in the third quarter, and Winslow used her absence to its advantage.
Flagstaff plays next on the road when it takes on Seton Catholic Prep on Friday, Dec. 6.
Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AZDS_Hartman.