Varsity boys hit stride in season home stretch

The Grand Canyon boys basketball team continues to fine-tune their game for the final three weeks of the season before regionals on Feb. 3 at St. Michael's. They are off to a good start with a 44-29 win over Tri-City Prep and a 60-39 win over the Ash Fork Spartans.

Thursday's non-conference game against Prep started with a methodical first half that saw the Canyon leading 25-18 at halftime. Both teams scored 9 points in the third quarter, but GC turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter, limiting Prep to one field goal, resulting in the final margin of victory.

Senior guard Emanuel Webb led the scoring with 17 points followed by Bille Booth with 8 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman guard Cuco Jaime had his best varsity performance of the season with 6 points and 4 steals.

Friday night, the Phantoms traveled to Ash Fork for a key conference game against the Spartans. The Canyon led 9-7 after the first quarter and slowly pulled away from Ash Fork, leading 21-15 at halftime. Once again, senior guard Webb led the way, hitting three crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, resulting in a 13-0 run that was too much for the Spartans to overcome. Webb finished with 22 points, followed by Booth with 20 points and 13 rebounds. Lydell Talas chipped in 8 points and 12 rebounds.

Head coach Dan Lopez was pleased with the team's defensive performance.

"Our defense is what is going to take us deep into regionals and the state tournament," he said. "We have been very consistent and have not been giving up many easy baskets. We need to improve our rebounding at both ends of the court or we are going to have a hard time winning games. Our bench has not been very productive in the rebounding area and that is a big concern of ours."

The Phantoms traveled to Seligman yesterday, then they head to Beaver Dam and Fredonia on Friday and Saturday.

"The next three games are critical for us, as far as seeding in regionals goes," said Coach Lopez. "The teams in our conference, other than Mogollon, are very balanced which will make regionals very exciting. I really like our chances. Emanuel Webb has been playing very well and Bille Booth has started to increase his offensive production. Senior guard Lydell Talas has been leading the team in rebounding and guard Paul Garza has been a steady influence on the court."

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