Clutch 3-pointer earns Coconino regional title

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Coconino Panther Emilio Esquivel (23) leaps into the air and grabs the rebound from Flagstaff’s Hampton Olney (3) and Troy Yazzie (10) Friday night in Flagstaff.


FLAGSTAFF

Based on past experience, Coconino coach Mike Moran knew that they had to beat Flagstaff to win the regional title.

That is what he told his kids at the beginning of the season when he took over the program after taking a five-year hiatus coaching girls’ basketball in Colorado.

The Coconino boys did just that as they erased a nine-point deficit with less than six minutes left in the game last Friday night before pulling out an entertaining 49-47 win over their longtime nemesis.

“This is one of the greatest moments for these kids,” Moran said. “This is something we’ve been shooting for and they will remember this for as long as they live.”

With the win Coconino improved to 23-6 and 11-1 in Grand Canyon play.

“We have great players on this team that do not quit on me,” Moran said. “We won 23 games so far and last year they won 10 and basically we’re the same squad. They have taken to what we’re doing and they are showing a lot of discipline and they play for each other.”

With two seconds remaining, Panther guard Harding Eddie hit the game winning shot by nailing his 20th point with a baseline trey.

“I missed the game winner against Youngker in our last game so I didn’t want to lose this one,” said Eddie, who was 8 for 17 from the field, which included four threes.

His clutch three materialized when Coconino point guard Emilio Esquivel broke down Flagstaff’s defense. With six second left Esquivel drew three Flagstaff players near the top of the key before he dished it off to a wide-open Eddie.

“My first thought was to score but I saw him on the baseline,” Esquivel said of Eddie. “He was feeling it so I made sure I gave him the ball.”

As for the nine-point deficit, Esquivel and Harding played a vital role in their come from behind win.

Esquivel came up with a three steals while Harding scored 10 of the Panther’s last 15 points.

“We’re a second-half team so we kept fighting,” said Esquivel, who finished with 14.

The senior point guard hit a short jumper with 5:44 to start the rally as Coconino trailed 43-36 with 5:44 to go.


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Categories: Basketball

About Author

Quentin Jodie

Quentin Jodie is the Sports Editor for the Navajo Times. He started working for the Navajo Times in February 2010 and was promoted to the Sports Editor position at the end of summer in 2012. Previously, he wrote for the Gallup Independent. Reach him at qjodie@navajotimes.com