The chant of "500, 500, 500" began from the visiting Highland stands with five seconds still left on the clock.
By then it was clear that Highland girls basketball coach Miner Webster was going to reach his milestone 500th career victory, a hard-fought 59-50 win Friday over Fiesta Region rival Mesquite.
The victory did not come easy as the Wildcats rallied from an early 14-0 deficit to challenge the Hawks until late into the fourth quarter.
Senior guard Amanda Vennard found her outside shooting stroke, making three 3-point baskets as the Hawks took control in the fourth quarter.
"I'm a shooter and you can't stop shooting," Vennard said. "I want the ball in a close game."
Highland sealed the win making 9 of 10 free throws in the final two minutes.
"It feels great, but it was a struggle," Webster said of reaching the 500-win plateau. "Mesquite always plays tough at home."
It appeared the Hawks would secure Webster's 500th win early as their pressure defense forced six early turnovers by the Wildcats and built the 14-0 lead.
"We were not ready at the beginning," Mesquite coach Candice Gonzales said. "I don't think we thought Highland would be that intense."
Gonzales was able to regroup her team and then let Melissa Spaich take control in the second quarter.
Spaich, who led all scorers with 25, scored 14 points in the second quarter to spark the Wildcats, who led 31-30 lead at the half.
"She was on fire in the first half," Webster said. "We didn't expect her to make those threes."
Ultimately, the Wildcats could not overcome the shooting of Vennard, who led the Hawks with 22 points.
Vennard's 3-pointer with 6:04 remaining in the game gave the Hawks a 42-39 lead they would never relinquish.
Vennard shared the sentiments of many of her teammates regarding the 500th win for Webster. "It's a blessing to play for a coach like him," she said. "I was part of his 400th win. I never thought we would get another 100 wins."
Arizona's top five winningest girls|basketball coaches
(Records through Friday’s games)
Coach School Record
Don Petranovich Winslow 658-138
Miner Webster *Highland 500-69
Jim Graham Cactus 491-198
Joe English Chaparral 480-189
Tom Bunger **Gilbert 452-200
Larry Hughes Corona 440-198
* - Also coached at Gilbert High
** - Also coached at Prescott and Mountain View high schools