AIA365.com

Don Ketchum
Former Staff Writer, AIA365.com

Miracle shot in last .08 seconds of OT lifts Flagstaff boys

How much time is required to hit a shot to win a basketball game?

If you are Flagstaff High’s boys team, only .08 seconds.

That’s all it took for the Eagles to stun Tempe 64-62 in overtime in Thursday’s (Feb. 27) Division II semifinal at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.

The final seconds of the extra period were winding down when the teams scrambled for the ball at the Tempe end. The buzzer sounded, but the officials ordered .08 put back on the clock.

With the ball inbounded at the Tempe baseline, Flagstaff’s Conner Estes unleashed a long Hail Mary pass that landed in the hands of teammate Trevor Johnson, who spun near the right side of the key, let the ball go and banked it in.

The officials ruled that the basket was good, and the green-clad Eagles piled on top of Johnson in celebration.

Tempe players, meanwhile, were understandably stunned.  They had made a big comeback from a 10-point halftime deficit to force the overtime, but couldn’t finish it off.

Third-seeded Flagstaff (27-3) advances to Saturday’s (March 1) championship game against either Phoenix Shadow Mountain or Vail Cienega. Tipoff is 11 a.m. at Jobing.com.

“Coach (James Kirk) drew it up in practice on Tuesday. When we got our timeout today, we said, “OK, let’s run our play.’ ‘’ said Johnson, who finished with 17 points.

“I just put the ball and hoped it would go in. When it did, I just hoped that the refs would count it, and they did.

“You never think a game is going to end like that. I’m just thankful to God and my teammates. Without them, this wouldn’t have happened.’’

Kirk said he knew the odds of such a play being successful were not very good, “but you have to try it anyway. You give your kids a little bit of hope, even if it’s only a little, rather than just saying, “Oh, well, it’s just a prayer.’

“But it wasn’t just that play that won it for us. It was the way we played the whole game. When they came back, we could have given up, but we didn’t. Tempe is a great team.’’

Flagstaff last won a state championship in 1975 at 25-0 under coach Doug Baker.

Tempe coach Tom Saltzstein finally emerged from the locker room after consoling his teary-eyed players. It was understandable.

“There are 15 guys crying in there and it just shows you that this game meant something to all of them,’’ he said.

“I told the kids who will come back next year, “Take what you feel now and use it next year.’ To the seniors, I told them that they would learn something, that they competed and did a great job, that they can use it when they compete for jobs in the future, things like that.’’

Of the final play, he said he was a bit surprised that time was put back on, but did not grouse about it.

“We knew they were going to try for a long play like that,’’ he said. “He (Estes) threw the ball high over our inbounds defender. Their guy got it and scored. We could have taken .08 off the clock by tipping the ball away, but we didn’t.

“I’m extremely proud of and thankful for these kids.’’

Brett Morrow scored 20 points to lead Flagstaff and Estes had 14. Emmanuel Gant led Tempe with 19 points.