Phantoms boys win berth in state finals

With a gutsy 46-42 win over Fredonia at the 1A North regional basketball tournament in Mogollon last weekend, the Grand Canyon high school boys secured the number three seed in the state finals, which begin in Phoenix today.

Grand Canyon, 61

St. Michael's, 34

The Phantoms opened the tournament Friday morning with a dominating 61-34 win over the St. Michael's Cardinals.

The Canyon set the tone by scoring the game's first 14 points while holding the stunned Cardinals to three field goals in the first two quarters, for a 29-9 halftime lead.  

Head Coach Dan Lopez said that the key to the game was defensive pressure from the opening tip.

"First round games are always the most stressful because if you lose, you go home," he said. "Teams like St Michael's are opponents that can get on a roll and we wanted to make sure that did not happen. Our kids did a great job from beginning to end. We came out very strong on offense and defense and never let them get any momentum."

Justin Kremer and Dennis Booth led a balanced scoring attack with Kremer accounting for 18 points and 11 rebounds while Dennis Booth scored 14 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists.

Mogollon, 54

Grand Canyon, 51 OT

The second round match-up with the host Mogollon Mustangs proved to be the most exciting game of the tournament, with the Mustangs prevailing in a hard fought 54-51 win in overtime. 

The Phantoms came out tentative and nervous, missing easy shots and making unforced turnovers that contributed to the Canyon's 4-point showing in the first quarter and the Mustangs' 21-14 halftime lead.

"Thanks to our defense we were able to stay in the game in the first half. After the way we played offensively we could have easily been down by 20," Lopez said.

The Canyon fell behind in the third quarter by 14 points, but showed why they earned their 19-3 season record, using defensive pressure to force turnovers and get the ball inside to 6-foot, 7-inch senior center Dennis Booth. They closed the gap to 35-31 at the end of the third quarter. With momentum in the Phantoms' favor, they committed three turnovers in a span of 30 seconds that led to six straight Mogollon points and a 10-point lead that got the home crowd in a frenzy.

The Phantoms then regrouped, sparked by Ryne Boone's 10 fourth quarter points, taking the lead 48-46 with nine seconds remaining. Mogollon called a timeout with the ball under their basket to set up a play, missed a 20-footer, but were able to get the offensive rebound and score to tie the game with 1.9 seconds on the clock, sending the game into overtime.

In the extra stanza, free throws proved to be the key as each team scored one field goal. The Mustangs were 4 of 4 from the line while the Canyon was 1 for 4. The Phantoms were a miserable 5 of 13 from the charity stripe.

"That was a great high school basketball game," Lopez said. "I am very proud of our team's ability to come back from 14 points, then from 10 points after our turnover meltdown on their court."

It came down, he said, to free throws ­ the Phantoms' weakness.

"I wish I could figure out why we are such a poor free throw shooting team. That was one of the big differences in this game," said Lopez. "It's not like we don't practice free throws."

Dennis Booth led the Phantoms with 23 points and 7 rebounds, while Ryne Boone had his best game of the season with 11 points and 9 rebounds.

"Ryne really stepped up and if he can give us this type of production in the state tournament, teams are going to have a tough time double and triple teaming Dennis," Lopez said.

Grand Canyon, 46

Fredonia, 42

Beating a team three times in the same season is always difficult. Trying to beat them four times is even harder, but the Phantoms stepped up with a 46-42 win over Fredonia. Though they were coming off of the heartbreaking 54-52 overtime loss to Mogollon, the Phantoms proved resilient in overcoming the Lynx for the fourth time this season.

Tied 24-24 at halftime, Fredonia held the Canyon to 6 third quarter points to take a 38-30 lead to start the fourth. The "never say die" Phantoms turned back to their best weapon ­ defense ­ and held the Lynx to 4 fourth quarter points to pull the game out for their fourth win over Fredonia this year.

Lopez was very pleased with the outcome, achieved despite two key losses ­ senior Dennis Booth fouled out with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and David Robinson followed shortly thereafter.

Not to worry as Ryne Boone continued his outstanding tournament, along with junior Lydell Talas, who scored 13 of the Phantoms' 16 fourth quarter points between them.

"For us to continue to have offensive production with our leading scorer and our point guard on the bench is a great tribute to our to our entire team, and a confidence builder going into the state tournament," a proud Lopez said. "Our bench did a great job the entire tournament, which is important as we go into the last week of the season.

The Canyon plays Arizona Lutheran today in the Phoenix East Valley area. Sites and times were not available at press time.

For more information contact the Grand Canyon School office at 638-2461 or e-mail Lopez at danl@grandcanyonschool.org. The Phantoms finished the season 20-4.

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