Heading into the season, Grand Canyon High School girls basketball coach Andrew Aldaz knew there was plenty of work to be done. The Lady Phantoms have a young roster again this season and are playing in a conference loaded with talent.
Becky Richardson attempts a shot while a Fredonia player attempts to block from behind.
Two of those talented teams went up against Grand Canyon this past weekend. In the conference opener Friday at home, the Lady Phantoms played well early but ended losing to Fredonia, 66-41. On Saturday, Grand Canyon struggled from the start in a 63-25 loss to St. Michael.
"The girls had been sick and they were tired," Aldaz said. "And for us being a young team, we knew we’d be taking our licks early to get us ready for the district tournament."
Grand Canyon (0-2, 2-5) saw its two-game winning streak end Friday in the loss to the Lady Lynx. Fredonia went on a 23-4 run in the third quarter to blow open what had been a close game.
"We played really well in the first half, down by eight," Aldaz said. "We really had a letdown in the third quarter ... then we came back in the fourth. We had one bad quarter against Fredonia."
Fredonia never trailed in the game but Grand Canyon made it interesting through the first two quarters. Samantha Stickler scored the team’s first four points — one basket on an offensive rebound, the other coming off an in-bounds pass.
Tiffany Monroe, seeing her first action of the season after missing the past few weeks with an ankle injury, scored two hoops and Stickler added another as the Phantoms trailed just 13-10 at the end of the first.
After Fredonia had gone up 15-10, Grand Canyon scored four straight to pull to within just one point of the lead. Stickler scored at the 6:05 mark, and then after the Phantoms missed two free throws, Melissa Monroe scored at 4:26 to make the score 15-14.
Fredonia got its offense going from that point, going on a 9-0 run to go up by 10. Stickler scored back-to-back baskets in the final 1:15 to pull the Phantoms back to within six. Fredonia countered with a hoop with 13 seconds left to give the Lynx an eight-point lead.
In the first two minutes of the third quarter, the two schools traded baskets. Leading 30-22, Fredonia then went on a 19-0 run to end the quarter and take complete control.
Grand Canyon rediscovered some offense in the fourth, but the hole was just too big for a comeback.
"Overall, they’re playing better than they did last year at this time," Aldaz said. "They’re scoring more points and being more aggressive on the offensive end than in the past. On the defensive end, they just need to pick it up more."
Stickler scored 28 points to lead the Phantoms.
St. Michael jumped out to leads of 20-6 after the first and 39-8 by halftime en route to its 38-point victory Saturday.
"They were a pretty good team and we started off slow," Aldaz said. "It seemed like we never got into a rhythm until the third quarter when we scored 12 points."
St. Michael hit five three-point goals in the game. The Cardinal defense caused fits all night for the Grand Canyon defense.
Stickler led Grand Canyon scorers with 10 points. Melissa Monroe finished with nine.
The Phantoms hit the road for back-to-back games Friday and Saturday at Seligman and Joseph City.