WILLIAMS — The Grand Canyon High School girls basketball team is concentrating on taking one step at a time.
But while the Lady Phantoms worked on improving their offensive capabilities Saturday morning in the seventh-place game of the Williams Pepsi Tournament, they nearly won the game over Laughlin, Nev.
Grand Canyon's Samantha Stickler shoots for the hoop with teammate Danielle Bone (No. 00) in position for a possible rebound.
In the end, the Cougars escaped with a 28-18 victory by pulling away in the fourth quarter. Despite the loss, Grand Canyon coach Andrew Aldaz was happy to see his team stay competitive.
"For us in this last game, we played better basketball than we have all season," Aldaz said. "Although we lost, we started to get some offense going, moving the ball around better."
Aldaz is trying to work on the team's guards getting the ball inside to post players Samantha Stickler and Maria Durfey. The Lady Phantoms showed shades of that philosophy, but would stray by taking quick shots from the outside.
"We're still lacking on trying to push the ball downcourt and penetrating," Aldaz said. "We'd like to be able to penetrate underneath to Maria and Sam."
In the Laughlin game, Cayla Shearer gave Grand Canyon a quick 2-0 lead when she hit a jumper from the outside 48 seconds into the contest.
The Cougars took a 4-2 lead on an Angellee Pilkerton basket and Nicole Wichman free throws. But Grand Canyon came right back to regain the lead.
Melissa Monroe pulled the team to within one with a free throw and then Stickler scored inside after grabbing an offensive rebound for the 5-4 lead.
Monroe upped the lead to 7-4 on her first basket. Laughlin finished the quarter with four straight points to lead by one point after eight minutes of action.
Neither team could generate much offense in the second quarter. In fact, the Phantoms and Cougars made no baskets at all in the quarter with all points coming from the free-throw line.
Laughlin won the free-throw contest, making 6-of-9. Grand Canyon made 2-of-5 and at halftime, the Cougars held a 14-9 lead.
Monroe hit a pair of free throws at the 5:01 mark of the third quarter to pull the team to within three of the lead. Laughlin's Wichman came right back with a basket of her own and the Phantoms could not get any closer the rest of the way.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Laughlin was up by seven points. The Cougars went on a 10-3 run to finish the game.
Stickler, who has been one of the top scorers this young season, got into foul trouble early and saw limited action. She fouled out with 6:35 left in the game.
A Monroe basket with 3:10 left in the game ended a long dry spell for Grand Canyon. The Lady Phantoms went 23 minutes, 37 seconds, nearly three full quarters of game time, without a field goal.
Monroe finished with 12 points for Grand Canyon. That represented 75 percent of the team's points.
Grand Canyon was scheduled to open the tournament Thursday against Ash Fork. But the Phantoms did not make the drive to Williams with heavy snowfall and the Spartans won by forfeit.
That put Grand Canyon in a consolation bracket game vs. Williams. The two teams had played only three days earlier in Grand Canyon's home opener.
In the Tuesday game, Williams had its offense in high gear for a 46-13 victory.
Grand Canyon actually surprised the Lady Vikings early by taking a 4-2 lead. Baskets by Tiffany Monroe and Melissa Monroe had the Phantoms in the lead.
But Williams went on a 16-0 run, led 27-4 at the half and ended up winning by 33.
The result for the Friday game in the tournament was similar with Williams taking a 55-15 victory.
The Vikes opened with an 11-0 run and had a 36-7 lead at the half. Grand Canyon had some success inside with Stickler scoring 10 points.
Grand Canyon, now 0-7 on the season, will play at Fredonia Friday and Music Mountain Saturday in the opening games of Class 1A North action.