“The girls have had a great season,” said coach Andrew Aldaz. “They’ve accomplished a lot. I think we’ve learned a little more than basketball.”
He said they achieved their goal to make it to state, something the Lady Phantoms had not done since the 1980s. And, the team scored a physical and psychological victory by beating St. Michael’s in the regionals.
“That was a big accomplishment,” Aldaz said. “I told them that if the Red Sox can win the World Series, the Grand Canyon girls can go to state. The curse is off.”
Receiving Most-Improved honors for the JV squad were Lindsay Haswood, Kayla Booth and Andrika Tici.
Aldaz also singled out Danielle Bone for special recognition.
“I want to thank her for sticking with it the whole season,” he said. “She said she didn’t like basketball, but I think there were days that she did like basketball.”
For the varsity squad, Becky Richardson and Nikki Harvey were both named Most-Improved. Jackie Wren and Kecia Torivio received Miss Hustle awards.
“They were all over the court, all the time,” Aldaz said. “Every time you needed them for a steal or a defensive stop, they were there.”
Colette Aspaas was Defensive Player of the Year. She also received a team captain award and was named to the Second Team All Conference.
“I’ve never seen a girl move from one side of the court to the other as fast as she has,” Aldaz said.
It came as no surprise that Samantha Stickler was named Player of the Year. The senior tallied more than 250 rebounds, 115 block shots and 583 points.
Leslie Martinez was recognized for her work as team manager and Aldaz also thanked Eddie Tobin who also helped keep books and scores.
The team presented Aldaz with Pittsburgh Steelers items and assistant coach Crystal Palmer with a Patrick Starfish to go with the stuffed SpongeBob Squarepants she received last year.
Cheer coach Teresa Barth said the four-year old squad had its most successful year so far and with first year players like Ali Towers, Lizzy Tobin and Jessie Wren, the squad’s future looked good.
“It was so hard to pick a Rookie of the Year this year because all three girls brought something to the team,” Barth said.
The award went to Towers.
Kelly Cook was voted Most-Dedicated by the other squad members and Fabienne Gueissaz received the Coach’s Award “Because you are always for the squad,” Barth said.
The “starting three” founding members of the cheerleading squad – Jenna Diaz-Gonzales, Janna Barth and Sonya Garza – were presented with special awards, including megaphones that were painted by former student Brian Skeet.
“I gave the megaphones to him last year,” said Barth. “He took them to college with him and painted them.”
Also, Diaz-Gonzales was named Most Valuable Player.
“Jenna does it all, from calling the cheer to basing and making up the dances,” Barth said. “She’s stepped in wherever we’ve needed help.”
Janna Barth received the Most Versatile Player award for her efforts as flyer, base and spotter.
“She did a little of everything,” said Barth.
Teresa Barth also recognized Pennie Larsen for her contributions as team manager and Mary Spoehr for bring the Phantom mascot to life this year.
The girls had some things to return to Barth as well, presenting her with a paper clock representing the time she devoted and a paper pillow for the sleep she lost, as well as gift certificates for the money she spent out of her own pocket on the team’s behalf.
“But what we can’t replace is all the effort you put in,” said Diaz-Gonzales.
For boys head coach Dan Lopez, the banquet was an emotional culmination of a four-year journey that started with a promise to “two skinny little freshmen” and ended with the Phantoms playing at State for the first time in more than 35 years.
“I told them that if they promised to work hard, I promised they wouldn’t have five coaches in four years and that they would get to the state tournament,” Lopez said.
Those two former freshmen – now seniors and co-captains Miguel Davila and Tempy Walker – did work hard and propelled the Phantoms to their most victorious season in more than three decades.
Davila was named to the 1A North Conference North Region First Team.
“We had four great years together,” said Lopez. “Miguel is an accomplished student and everything that needs to be done, he has stepped up and done it.”
And Walker, a starter since his freshman year, was named both Defensive Player of the Year and Player of the Year.
He was also named to the State Tournament First Team and 1A North Regional First Team and is the 1A 3-point Champion.
Lopez said that the team’s great season was due, in part, to the way Walker changed his game, lowering his scoring average but passing the ball more often.
“We were going to have a commitment to get the ball to the right people,” he said. “Tempy made the other players better.”
He said the season’s tearful end in the Glendale Arena locker room was about more than basketball.
“There were tears running down many faces but we were not crying over the loss of a basketball game,” Lopez said. “It was for each other. Why? It was simply our time.
“This team committed to high team standards and goals and they made the necessary sacrifices,” Lopez said. “They embraced victory with humility and defeat with respect and dignity. They congratulated their teammates’ successes and comforted and consoled them when they failed.”
This year’s team also brought a great gift to the community and to the Grand Canyon alumni, Lopez said.
“You brought excitement to the community and brought alumni together to laugh over old war stories and rekindle old friendships,” he said.
Jason Coffey received a Phantom Spirit Award, not only for his performance on the court but also for his work in the classroom.
“He did whatever he had to do in the classroom to stay eligible to play,” Lopez said.
Paul Garza was named Most Improved Player, while Emanuel Webb was named Offensive Player of the Year.
Lopez also recognized Eddie Tobin for his unselfish attitude.
“Eddie wanted to suit up for varsity,” he said. “But anything I asked of Eddie he stepped up and did.”
Chris Streit and Dennis Booth received Phantom Spirit awards.
Streit, said Lopez “improved in all aspects of his game” while Booth “elevated his game” despite two ankle injuries.
David Robinson and Cody Bettencourt also received Phantom Spirit awards, Bettencourt for doing whatever he was asked and Robinson for working hard on his game.
Kevin Beckerleg also received a Phantom Spirit Award for being the “sixth man” and Danny Vincent was honored for being a consistent and solid player even though his name rarely made the paper.
“He did the dirty work,” said Lopez.
Vincent was also recognized by the conference and named to the 1A North Region Second Team.
Senior Ryan Eck was named Most Improved player as well as to the 1A North All Conference Second Team.
“Ryan was always in the right place at the right time,” Lopez said.
For next year’s team, said Lopez, “The bar has been set.”
He also thanked the parents “who are there in a lot of different ways” as did the other coaches.
“Thanks to the parents who supported the athletes,” said Aldaz. “You should be proud of your athletes.” Thanks also went out to the faculty “for keeping the players eligible” and businesses for their contributions.
Receiving special thanks were McDonald’s, We Cook Pizza, Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, Delaware North and the Conaco Food Mart.
The teams also thanked Xanterra South Rim LLC, particularly Dave Beckerleg and Jon Streit, for support throughout the season and for sponsoring the banquet.