Though they aren't long on experience, the boys and girls varsity basketball squads show promise in what will be a building year for both teams.
The teams faced Ash Fork in a scrimmage last Thursday, turning out performances that pleased boys coach Dan Lopez and girls coach Perry Smith.
"We have a strong starting five but we have no depth," Lopez said. "The kids coming off the bench are freshmen and sophomores who haven't played basketball at all."
The core of the 15-player boys team is seniors Emanuel Webb, Paul Garza and Lydell Talas, junior Bille Booth and sophomore Daniel Trenchard. Booth, he notes, is likely to emerge as one of the best players in the 1A conference.
Lopez gave the JV squad a test run on the court in the third quarter and liked what he saw, particularly their enthusiasm.
"They are very experienced but they did a very good job on defense and with fast breaks," Lopez said. "A lot of them are soccer players who decided to try basketball. After the game they were pumped up and a lot had scored baskets."
He believes that the shallow bench will be the team's greatest threat.
"If we get into foul trouble or have injuries, we'll have to bring in very young players," he said.
Longtime assistant coach Greg Walker is working with Lopez.
Smith's concerns parallel Lopez' in that he is working with a very young team with only two seniors, one of which is likely to be sidelined for the season after an on-court injury on Thursday.
"The majority are sophomores, there are a couple freshmen and one junior," Smith said.
After Thursday's game, in which star player Yadira Caballero was injured, Smith said the ante has been upped for the rest of the team.
"These younger kids now are going to have to step up if Yadira is out," he said. "We'll need two or three to take her place. She is a dynamic player and it will be tough."
Though about half of the 15-member squad had never played competitive basketball, Smith said they looked good on the court.
"They did much better than I anticipated," he said. "I was very happy with their ball control. There were not very many turnovers."
Based on the competition in the league, he said the girls have a shot at the regionals. While they don't expect to topple powerhouse Fredonia, Smith believes they could come out ahead of Ash Fork, Beaver Dam and Seligman.
"After Fredonia, it's anyone's game," he said. "We hung pretty tough with Ash Fork for being inexperienced."
Assistant coach for the girls is Laura Schrage, a Park Service employee with a year of college basketball experience. Smith said he will also rely on Caballero's leadership from the bench.
This is Smith's first year as a head coach, after three years of coaching JV. He replaces Andrew Aldaz, who is coaching the middle school girls team.
Both coaches were pleased at the turnout and hope interest stays as high through the season.
"We're going to be a lot of fun to watch," Lopez said.
The teams traveled to Joseph City yesterday and will take part in the Williams tournament from Thursday, Nov. 30-Saturday, Dec. 2. They play at home on Tuesday, Dec. 5, with a girls game at 6 p.m. and boys at 7:30 p.m. On Friday, Dec. 8, they play Rock Point here with games at 2:30, 4, 5:30 and 7 p.m.
The middle school Lady Phantoms play here on Saturday, Dec. 2 against Seligman and Williams starting at 8 a.m.