For the second consecutive year, the Grand Canyon boys basketball team ended the season in the final four, falling to rival Seligman Saturday in a hard-fought 46-37 loss.
The North Conference number three seed Phantoms opened the state tournament in Phoenix last Wednesday by defeating the number two seed, West Valley Lutheran 50-42.
Valley, a 2A school last year, found the going just as rough this year, falling behind 30-20 at halftime. Lutheran's J. Ehlers scored 11 of Valley's 20 points at the half but was shut down in the second stanza, as the Canyon's relentless zone limited him to desperate three-point shots.
Justin Kremer led the Phantoms, scoring 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Head coach Dan Lopez attributed the win to the Canyon's ability to adjust to Lutheran's multiple trapping defenses.
"We knew going in that Lutheran played a variety of trap defenses and David Robinson did a great job of recognizing when they changed defenses and was able to get the ball to the right people," he said.
In the second round of the state tournament the 1A North Phantoms faced the number one seed from the south, Tucson Green Fields, and prevailed 51-36.
The Phantoms trailed by one point as the first quarter ended at 13-12. But they turned up the defensive pressure and held the high flying Zephyrs to one point in the second quarter, resulting in a 25-14 halftime lead essentially the ball game.
In the second half the game was virtually even but GF could not figure out how to solve the Phantoms' relentless 1-3-1 zone.
"We did a great job on their leading scorer. Even though he had 21 points, he missed a lot of shots because of our defensive pressure," said an excited Lopez. "Our kids have been playing great defense and that is why we are going to the final four, two years in a row."
Dennis Booth led in scoring with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Justin Kremer followed with 8 points and 12 rebounds.
The victory assured the Phantoms an unprecedented second final four appearance in a row.
"This is just a great tribute to our kids and our program," a proud Lopez commented.