After a 30-point loss to the number-one ranked Fredonia Lynx, it would be hard to say the Grand Canyon Lady Phantoms had improved.
But Head Coach Dan Lopez was upbeat about his team's performance despite their 56-26 loss in the first round of the Route 66 Williams Holiday Tournament.
"This was our opening game and we came out with a lot of nervous energy that led to turnovers and poor excecution in the first half," Lopez said. "We played much better in the second half and stayed even with the number-one ranked team in the state."
The team's goal was to have fewer than 20 turnovers for the game, but they allowed 27 in the first half alone, contributing to the Lady Phantoms' problems.
Turnovers led to easy lay-ups for the Lady Lynx and a 13-1 first quarter lead. The second quarter was not much better as the Canyon continued to throw the ball away and give up easy baskets. Marissa Timeche led the Phantoms with 6 points.
Canyon vs Seligman
In the second game of the tournament, the Lady Phantoms defeated longtime nemises the Lady 'Lopes from Seligman, 48-33.
This was the first time in several years that the Canyon defeated one of top teams in the conference.
The game was close throughout the first three quarters with the Canyon leading 22-17 at the half and 33-26 to close out the third quarter.
A relentless defense led to several 'Lopes turnovers and the Canyon pulled away in the fourth quarter, outscoring Seligman 15-7.
Miriam Bankston, who sat out most of the Fredonia game, had a double double with a school record 27 rebounds and 15 points. Tiffany Kerr had 14 points and led the team with three 3-point field goals.
"This was a good win for our program," Lopez commented. "We have a new mindset this year in that we no longer go into games hoping to keep from losing by 30 or more. We now think we can beat all the teams in our conference if we play good defense and rebound. The Fredonia game was tough because we were very nervous."
With their leading rebounder sidelined in the first half and one of their key starters, Madison Berry, out with an injury, the Lady Phantoms were short-handed. Still they prevailed.
"Seligman has a long history of success and we wanted to measure up to their competive level and the girls did just that," said Lopez. "This was a very good win.
Canyon vs Mogollon
The Lady Phantoms continued to show that they will be competitive in the tough 1A North Conference, losing to Mogollon 31-28 in their final game of the Williams Route 66 Tournament.
The Lady Phantoms led the entire game until the Mustangs went up 31-28 with 38 seconds remaining. A Canyon foul with 20 seconds to go gave the Mustangs a 1-1 but a miss shot resulted in the Canyon getting the ball.
After the Mustangs knocked the ball out of bounds the Canyon had one last chance with a second on the clock. The Phantoms called time-out and set up a 3-point play for Tiffany Kerr, who ended up being wide open but could not handle a tough pass as time expired.
Bankston had her second double double with 13 rebounds and 14 points. The Ladies were 2-9 at the free throw line and 1 for 9 from 3-point range.
Lopez said he has stressed the importance of free throws in close games.
"We set goals for the team and one of them was to be in a position to win games at the end," he said. "Mogollon is another program with a history of success and usually beats us pretty good. We know we could have won that game and we are gaining more and more confidence as we continue to improve our execution of basketball skills."
The Canyon plays at home this weekend with a rematch against Seligman starting Friday at 3 p.m. and on Saturday against St. Michael's starting at 4:30 p.m.