Already holding wins of 50 and 34 points against the No. 14-seeded Lee Williams Volunteers, the No. 3 Flagstaff Eagles made the season margin of victory more than 100 points in Tuesday’s 4A Conference first-round game.
Jumping out to a 13-point lead in the first quarter, the Eagles won 57-22 to open their state tournament run and outscored the Volunteers 187-68 in three meetings combined. Playing with a slightly different starting five -- Monique Ware, Ashley Edison, Emma Doskicz, Josie Faull and Reece Honanie -- Flagstaff put together a 10-0 run after allowing a game-opening 3-pointer to Lee Williams.
Edison scored the final four points of the first quarter, putting the Eagles ahead 19-6, before finishing the opening 16 minutes with 15 of her game-high 20. With Ware posting just seven points, and both Mikaila Kayaani-Lee and Hailey Armus held out until the second half, it was Edison pacing Flagstaff for much of the first half.
“With her being a senior and realizing this is their moment as seniors, I think she took it a little personal and said she was going to play,” Johnson said of Edison. “There was nothing extra from us or anything like that, she got it going and we left her in so she could keep it going, and she did.”
Flagstaff essentially put the game away right out of halftime, turning a 30-11 lead into a 38-11 advantage within the first few minutes. Lee Williams fought back with four straight points, but Ware added a few breakaway layups off of turnovers to force the Volunteers into a timeout down 44-15. The run continued for the remainder of the third quarter, with the Eagles winning the frame 21-4.
“I thought they responded pretty well. I thought we showed some good intensity on the defensive end, and I thought that we were pushing the basketball,” Johnson said of his altered starting five. “Ash came out focused, just played in the moment and played to her skill set. It reflected on the scoreboard and I am quite sure in the stats with some of her defense and even rebounding.”
Faull scored 11 points, with nine coming in the first half, and Honanie added six. Nine different Eagles scored in the game, which served as a warmup for another, more dramatic Grand Canyon Region rematch set for Friday.
After beating its crosstown rival 66-37 and 54-21 in two meetings this season, Flagstaff will host the No. 6 Coconino Panthers in the 4A quarterfinals. The Panthers beat the St. Mary’s Knights 55-33 on their own home court Tuesday, giving the city its second postseason rivalry meeting in a week.
“(Martin) Reyes and I talked about it, the possibility that if we both handle our business, we will meet,” Johnson said of his discussion with Coconino’s head coach. “Of course it is good for the town, another crosstown rivalry game like the boys did, but then that is going to guarantee somebody from Flagstaff is in the final four.”
Last season, Coconino reached the state semifinals as the No. 3 seed, as did No. 4 Flagstaff on the other side of the bracket. This season, just one will head to Grand Canyon University for a game on Feb. 23.
“We will be represented. Not just the Grand Canyon Region, but Flagstaff itself will be represented in the final four again,” Johnson said, admitting it was disappointing all three Grand Canyon teams fell on the same side of the bracket. “We just need to keep that going strong.”
Holding a 51-15 lead at the end of the third quarter, Flagstaff played most of its bench while Kayaani-Lee and Armus remained in the game until the final buzzer.
“One, we play the games for a reason, and two, we can’t overlook anybody,” Johnson said. “We can’t look down the road and get bumped off early, because everything we have worked for would go for naught. We have got to be focused on the moment.”
Friday’s rivalry playoff game is set for a 6:30 p.m. tip at Flagstaff High School.