The Flagstaff Eagles drained a bunch of 3s Friday to punch a ticket to the Final Four.
Mikaila Kayaani-Lee had five of Flagstaff's nine total 3-pointers for a game-high 14 points, Monique Ware added 11 points and the No. 3-seeded Eagles knocked the sixth-ranked Coconino Panthers out of the 4A Conference state tournament with a quarterfinal score of 54-30.
Coconino High School’s Kaylee Begay (23) dives alongside Flagstaff High School’s Mikaila Kayaani-Lee (44) for a loose ball Friday evening duri…
The Eagles, who beat the Panthers in all three meetings this season by an average of nearly 29 points per game, opened the night with a green light from long range, scoring 11 first-quarter points on three 3s and a pair of free throws from Ashley Edison.
Flagstaff, playing host, kept getting open shots around the perimeter and took advantage of the looks, despite poor shooting to open the game.
"Our coach always tells us to look for one more pass, and we always try to pass up a good pass for a great pass, and we are a good team with assists, and whoever is shooting good, we get it to them," said Edison, who scored 10 points and ended her night with a pair of 3s.
Making a Final Four appearance for the second year in a row, the Eagles will face the No.2 Pueblo Magnet Warriors next Friday, who share a similar style of play as Flagstaff. The semifinals are set to take place at Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix and tipoff is schedule for 2:15 p.m.
"We played against them in the summer and their guards can play and their bigs are active on the glass, they have a press -- they are like us, they like to get after it," said Eagles head coach Tyrone Johnson, whose team also had nine 3-pointers made against the Panthers in the first meeting between the teams this season.
Flagstaff head coach Tyrone Johnson pumps his fist during the second half of Friday's game against the Coconino Panthers.
Ending their season at 17-4 overall including a first-round playoff win, the Panthers scored the game's first four points for their lone lead of the night. The Eagles responded with an 8-0 run that started with a 3 from Kayaani-Lee and never looked back.
Despite the looks, the shots were not falling for the Eagles to start the game, and it took the team until the 4:20 mark of the opening quarter to get a 3 to go. Flagstaff, improving to 20-1, started its scoring in each quarter with a 3-pointer and didn't connect on a field goal for two points until Aaliah Tsosie made it 19-6 in favor of the Eagles with 2:20 to play before halftime.
"We just went with it. We were off to a slow start, and we just knew we needed to pick it up," Kayaani-Lee said of being aggressive with 3-point shooting.
Jada Golding had a team-high 11 points for the Panthers and Kortnee Begaye added 10. The team made its way to the Elite Eight for the second straight year, this time without former star guard JJ Nakai.
Coconino Panthers head coach Martin Reyes speaks to his team during Friday's game against the Flagstaff Eagles.
"That's just the commitment the ladies have made to the program -- to be better," said Panthers head coach Martin Reyes. "I just ran some of the numbers for the program since I took over (in the 2015-16 season), and we've been 70-23. We've either been the region champ or runner up, and that's just because they put the work in. They want to be good basketball players and they have set a great foundation for the ladies behind them."
Ware, her shooting arm and hand wrapped in tape, made it a 31-11 game when she started her burst of five straight points after struggling to connect for the majority of the first half. After her steal and coast-to-coast layup made it a 20-point game, she finally connected on a 3. Ware's run came early in the third quarter, which started with her getting a hard foul that she was slow to get up from.
Ware added points to the box score for the first time in the game in the closing minute of the opening half.
"We wanted to look for some stuff in the inside, and felt our guards could post their guards up, but in trying to call out the play and what we were going to run out of our box set, we were having trouble hearing, so we just scrapped that and played like we normally play," Johnson said. "Take what the defense gives us, and that's what we did."