FHS gets seven 3-pointers from Janecek, still falls to region-leading Bradshaw Mountain

ERIC NEWMAN Sun Sports Editor

The Flagstaff Eagles boys basketball team was close at the end, but fell at home Friday. Despite a major comeback and even a late lead, the Eagles fell 58-53 to No. 3 Bradshaw Mountain at War Memorial High School.

No. 35 Flagstaff (2-13, 1-8 Grand Canyon) was the beneficiary of a spectacular shooting night from senior Ben Janecek. He scored a game-high 24 points, including seven made 3-pointers. He was one of the three seniors that led the Eagles in scoring on Senior Night in the last Flagstaff home game of the regular season. Seniors Richard Garcia and Jerome Key chipped in eight and seven points, respectively.

But the Eagles could not finish off their home finale with a victory.

Despite the loss, Flagstaff coach Nick Walton said he was proud of the effort the Eagles showed after being down double digits and slowly clawing their way back to make it close against the region-leading Bears.

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“It just shows some of the character that’s in our program. The season may not be going the way that we want, and guys have the opportunity to be frustrated right from the get-go. I think it showed that our guys have fight,” Walton said.

Following a pregame ceremony to honor the graduating seniors, The Eagles came out of the gate about as slow as possible. They did not hit a single shot from the floor in the first quarter. The only point came on a made free throw from Key.

Bradshaw Mountain took advantage of the slumping Eagles and led 19-1 after the first period.

From there, though, Flagstaff started to come back. On the first possession of the second quarter, Janecek hit his first 3 of the game. His shot was the start of a 15-4 run by the Eagles to close the deficit to seven points. The Eagles outscored the Bears 20-11 in the second quarter to trail 30-21 at halftime, a massive improvement from their first-quarter performance.

“I felt like we were a little slow — I don’t know whether it was the moment of Senior Night, or what it was — but we finally woke up and Ben hit a big shot and we kind of relaxed and got back into the game,” Walton said.

Janecek kept his hot shooting night going, continuing to make long-range baskets, in the third quarter.

Janecek hit a late 3, and Flagstaff has clawed its way to being down just 44-42 after 3Q pic.twitter.com/f466gdnhkL

— Eric Newman (@enewmanwrites) January 28, 2023

“He’s got to see the ball go through. He can see the ball go in at any given moment, but he’s got to see the ball in the basket once or twice, and that really brings him up. He can see it in his release and everything,” Walton said.

Finally, after trailing the entire game, Janecek hit a 3 to tie the score at 51-51.

A long 3 from Janecek ties the game at 51-51. 1:23 to play pic.twitter.com/mkAQw46fqw

— Eric Newman (@enewmanwrites) January 28, 2023

With 1:23 left, Key hit a pair of free throws to give the Eagles their first lead of the contest, 53-51.

Jerome Key hit a pair of FTs, and the Eagles take their first lead of the game. Flagstaff is up over Bradshaw Mountain, 53-51, with 1:06 to play. Flagstaff ball after the timeout pic.twitter.com/s1sBWHUX0c

— Eric Newman (@enewmanwrites) January 28, 2023

However, Bradshaw Mountain responded with a pair of made free throws to tie the score.

Flagstaff, with a chance to take another late lead, turned the ball over on the next possession. The Bears capitalized with a 3, and made a couple free throws with four seconds to play to ice the game.

With its record, Flagstaff is barely hanging on to a chance to make the postseason. The AIA instituted an open playoff, which may bring some of the top 4A Conference teams up into a true state championship bracket. The more that move up to the higher-level playoffs, the more lower-tier teams may have a chance to make the 4A play-in round.

Regardless of where it sits after Friday, and whether there’s a chance for playoffs or not, Flagstaff wants to make improvements in the final stretch of the season.

“We just want to finish. The math is what it is. We want to end on a good note. We can only control our own team, and see what the matchups and other rankings do,” Walton said.

The Eagles will play their three remaining road games this week, beginning with a visit to Prescott Monday.

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