The Ironwood Eagles advanced to final eight of the Open Division and are now all in for the first open title.
The #5 Eagles defeated the #21 Canyon View Jaguars Friday night 59-57. They now will take on #13 Scottsdale Desert Mountain in the quarterfinals Feb. 18.
Ironwood started with a lead on the Jaguars and maintained that lead throughout the game - but just barely.
Ironwood led Canyon View 37-26 at halftime. The visitors chipped away in the second half and had the ball late with a chance to tie or take the lead.
“I’ll know a lot more when I watch film, I got to do a better job at the end of the game, so that’s how I felt the end of the game, it shouldn’t have been that close, he did a great job coach Lavender, and I got to do a better job,” Ironwood coach Jordan Augustine said.
Canyon View called a timeout with 55 seconds left, trailing 59-55. Canyon View’s sophomore Adam Hubbard put two points on the board at the free throw line with 42 seconds left on the clock.
The Jaguars were able to get the ball. back. But in the final 10 seconds when Ironwood junior Noah Gifft tipped a cross-court pass and senior Julius Williams was able to pick up the loose ball and bring it back down court.
Williams threw the ball ahead to Gifft, who dribbled back to half court until the time ran out leaving Ironwood with a two-point win.
During those last few seconds of the game senior forward Kuac said “It was kind of down to the wire, little bit nail biting, but I know that we know that we train for this moment... we got the desirable result.”
Randy Lavender is the first year head coach of Canyon View, and former coach of Centennial High School who had won 5A in 2022 said. Ironwood and Centennial built an intese rivalry in recent years, as the Eagles won twice on the way to the 2020 5A title, the teams split in 2021 and Centennial beat Ironwood three times en route to last year's title.
Both teams only had one practice to prepare for this game.
“The guys are pretty confident, we comin in, we really have nothing to lose, just coming out there play hard see what happens.” Lavender said before the game. “We couldn’t really do too much because we only had one day to prepare after winning so all we could do was just take a look at some of the things they do and just come out and be ready.”
These teams had not played in two years, and changed quite a bit since.
“You know what coach Lavender does a heck of a job I think we’re excited to get after it, we know they're gonna be a great team and we are excited to get going,” Augustine said.
The Eagles brought the heat each period starting off with a 21-10 lead on and continued to bring the energy.
Kuac got the crowd going when he shot and made a three-pointer at the first period buzzer.
“Nothing can beat that, it’s such an amazing atmosphere, we have such a lovely community here and everyone is coming out here supporting us, and we got to show out for them,” Kuac said.
Canyon View drops into the 5A bracket as the #4 seed and will host #13 Scottsdale Chaparral at 7 p.m. Feb. 16
Shifting focus towards the next game against Desert Mountain Kuac said “I think everybody here is locked in to getting this next win, and training hard and you know staying bought in to what we believe in, and you know we are just gonna get the dub.”
As the Eagles' T-shirts and coach Augustine said “If you see us in a fight with the bear you better pray for the bear.”
Mariah Cox is a sports journalism student at Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.