Grand Canyon Phantoms close to entering sectional tourney as number one seed

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - On Jan. 31, the Grand Canyon Phantoms boys basketball team played host to Red Valley-Cove in an important sectional match-up. Grand Canyon was able to jump out to an early 29-6 lead behind hot shooting from senior forward Joey Bankston, who was four for four on three-pointers and seven for eight overall in the first quarter.

The Phantoms dominated from the opening tip as senior guard Justin Jarrell connected with Bankston for a powerful alley-oop dunk immediately after the jump ball. Bankston was dominant, scoring 34 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. Tyler Jones added 10 points and 12 rebounds of his own. Red Valley-Cove finally found its offense in the fourth quarter scoring 19 points against the Grand Canyon reserves, but it was too little too late as the Phantoms cruised to a 62-44 victory.

The next day, the team traveled to Chino Valley and earned a similar final result after having a slow start. The Phantoms offense took over in the second and third quarters this time as they outscored Chino Valley 52-20 over that span. Senior Ethan Berry was red hot in the third quarter, pouring in 20 points on his way to lead Grand Canyon with 30 points for the game. Bankston scored 24 on nine-16 shooting, and again grabbed 16 boards while Jarrell added 12 points. The final score was 77-36. The Phantom boys junior varsity team also picked up a victory against Chino Valley to improve its season record to nine wins and five losses.

The two victories left the Phantoms in control of its own destiny heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Victories against El Capitan, who defeated the Phantoms 67-53 in December, tomorrow at 7 p.m. and a sectional win against Ash Fork the following day, also at 7 p.m., would allow Grand Canyon to enter the sectional tournament as the number one seed.

"One or two losses would still leave the Phantoms in position to play at the four team sectional tournament, but as a lower seed," Phantoms Head Coach Dave Beery said.

The sectional tournament is in Tuba City at Greyhills Academy. The semifinals are Feb. 12 and the final on Feb. 15.

The Phantoms can qualify for the state tournament by winning sectionals or finishing high in the Arizona Interscholastic Athletics rankings system. As of Feb. 3, the Phantoms are currently ranked eighth in the state in Division IV, 24 teams qualify for state.

Lady Phantoms

Varsity girls played Red Valley-Cove on Jan. 31 and lost 22-37. Tateyonna Jeter-Nanacasia scored 10 points, Yesenia Jiminez had five and Ksena Wadsworth added four points.

The next day, both junior varsity and varsity played at Chino Valley. Both teams lost their games.

Varsity's final score was 23-41. Shanaya Upshaw and Deya Ramos with scored five each, and Tina Dugi and Jiminez added four points each.

Junior varsity's score was 12-22. Dugi scored five, Valeria Romero added three and Josefina Legaspi and Kiana Wadsworth scored two points each.

This weekend will finish up the season for the girls. Varsity plays El Capitan tomorrow at home at 5:30 p.m. The next day, both varsity and junior varsity will play Ash Fork at home at 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Senior Recognition Night is also on Friday.

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