GCHS girls cagers see<br>strong finish in tournament

The Grand Canyon High School girls basketball team finished the Williams Holiday Tournament on a high note Saturday by winning its final two games, including the fifth-place game.

The Lady Phantoms had few problems with Laughlin, Nev., in a 52-15 win and then downed conference rival Ash Fork in the Spartans’ own gym, 50-34.

Nikki Harvey tries to make her way around a defender on Thursday.

"I felt going into Saturday, we could win both games," Grand Canyon coach Andrew Aldaz said. "We were able to play a lot of other girls who didn’t get much playing time (in the first three games). That kind of gave me an idea of what we have for depth."

Grand Canyon opened the season Dec. 3 with a 45-16 home loss to Williams. The Lady Vikings opened the game with a 17-4 run in the first quarter and never looked back. Melissa Monroe scored nine of the team’s 16 points.

Aldaz said the team suffered a setback with the loss of Tiffany Monroe, who suffered a high ankle sprain in practice. She also missed the entire tournament, but was expected to be back in uniform for Friday’s game against Fredonia.

In the first round of the Williams tournament on Thursday, the Lady Phantoms saw a comeback fall just short in a 40-37 loss to Mogollon.

The Mustangs tried to pull away on several occasions, getting up to a double-digit lead at times. But Grand Canyon battled back and had a chance to tie in the closing seconds.

"It just didn’t happen," Aldaz said. "The girls played really well for that early in the season and playing a team like Mogollon. They played a lot better than they did against Williams."

Samantha Stickler scored 13 points and Colette Aspaas added 12 in the loss.

Grand Canyon fell down into a loser’s bracket game Friday against Many Farms. The Lady Phantoms were never in this one and suffered a 66-31 setback.

"We were overmatched against Many Farms," Aldaz said. "They picked us up on top and we weren’t ready for the press. That’s something we’ll be working on this week to get ready for Fredonia and St. Michaels."

Stickler scored 12 points and Monroe had 11 in the loss.

With three straight losses on their minds, the Grand Canyon girls found the win column Saturday in the 37-point victory over Laughlin. For the first time, the Phantoms were consistently able to set up their offense while playing sound defense.

"We were running our offense and that’s running inside," Aldaz said. "If we can hit the inside shot, that will open up the outside shot. They were leaving Sam open and we were hitting her inside. They couldn’t stop her."

Stickler scored 22 points on 10 field goals and 2-of-4 free throws for the Lady Phantoms. Monroe was also on the mark with 14 points on five field goals and 4-of-6 at the line.

The Grand Canyon defense played well after the first quarter. Laughlin scored 13 points in the first eight minutes, but managed only two more points the rest of the game. The Lady Phantoms shut them out in the second and third quarters.

With the win, Grand Canyon advanced to the fifth-place game against Ash Fork. Playing in the Spartans’ gym, the Phantoms jumped out to a 19-6 lead in the first and cruised to the 16-point win.

Stickler was a force inside with a season-high 29 points on 13 field goals and 3-of-6 free-throw shooting.

Aldaz said the tournament was valuable for discovering strengths and weaknesses.

"I found out we can go seven or eight deep on the bench," Aldaz said. "The one who has really come along is Colette. She really helped Melissa and Sam out. Nikki (Harvey) and Becky (Richardson) have both really stepped up."

Grand Canyon (0-0, 2-3) will host Fredonia Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Lady Phantoms head to St. Michael Saturday.

There will also be junior-varsity action Friday, beginning at 2:30.

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