Should the Horizon Honors girls basketball postseason hopes come down to final moments coach Nate Agostini is confident the team will come through.

After all, the Eagles have been winning close calls all year.

“We had a stretch early in the season where just about every game came down to the final minutes,” he said. “We got a lot of wins that way and it really gave this team some confidence.”

The Eagles (13-10 overall and 10-4 in power ranking games) began the week at No. 22 in the Division III power rankings before losing 62-27 to undefeated Valley Christian on Tuesday. They have four games, including Friday’s home game against Chandler Prep, to better their playoff positioning.

“We feel like we have to win three of those to get it done,” he said. “It’s there for us, but we have to go out and earn it.”

After the Chandler Prep (10-9) game, they play at Red Rock (10-13), at Camp Verde (16-8) and close out the regular season on Feb. 7 at home against Glendale (5-9).

However the rest of the season plays out, the Eagles have made some strides this season as Horizon Honors is in line to have just its second winning season since going 27-8 in the 2007-08 season.

“Our goal from the start was to make the playoffs and we are in position to do that,” Agostini said. “We’ve done a lot of good things this season. Hopefully, we can get into the playoffs and show the younger players what it takes to get there so we can keep developing.”

The key to the season has been the play and leadership of the two senior captains as Rachel Irons and Bethany Tsai have put their fingerprints on the DNA of this squad.

Irons, who averages 6.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.4 assists, is the tough-nosed point guard whose demeanor stays even keel regardless of what is going on in the game.

“She plays the game hard and leaves it all out there,” Agostini said. “All point guards are going to have turnovers and we tell the younger players to watch Rachel and how she handles herself.”

Tsai’s rise to a captain is interesting in the fact that she had to sit out all of last season after transferring from Dobson, and yet she showed enough in practice last year and this year’s preseason to earn the respect of her peers.

“It meant a lot and I want to help them to the playoffs,” she said. “I tried to keep working hard (last year when she could practice but not play in games) and I guess they noticed.”

Agostini said while she worked hard she really only had one desire during her downtime.

“She asked every day I think if we were scrimmaging,” he said with a laugh. “She loves to compete.”

Others have noticed as well as Tsai, who averages a team-high 8.4 points and 8.5 rebounds, will continue her career at Arizona Christian University next year after sending the coaching staff her playing tape.

“They really liked what they say and I liked everything there when I visited,” she said. “It meant all the hard work really paid off.”

The Eagles, who have lost three straight games, are hoping they can say the same thing a week from now with a playoff berth.

“We have to play better,” she said. “We made some mistakes lately. If we are going to reach our goal (the playoffs) then we need to stop it and play better.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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