Phantom boys drop<br>pair of 1A North contests
GCNP — The Grand Canyon High School boys basketball team had a tough couple of days in 1A North Region play last week.
The Phantoms suffered back-to-back setbacks on Friday and Saturday, losing the two games by an average of 25.5 points.
Joseph City downed Grand Canyon, 66-41, on Friday before the Wildcats’ home crowd. And on Saturday, St. Michael headed to Phantom country and came away with a 65-39 win.
The Wildcats took advantage of their height in the win over Grand Canyon. Steve Boynton said getting the boards was a difference in the game.
“They’re huge, they outrebounded us on both ends,” Boynton said. “They played really well.”
The Phantoms got off to a slow start with only two points in the first eight minutes but still trailed by only five. At halftime, Grand Canyon was down 21-13 but was still within striking distance.
Hopes of a comeback were dashed in the third quarter when Joe City began to pull away. The Wildcat lead got into the double digits and the Phantoms could not recover.
Jose Diaz-Gonzalez led Grand Canyon scorers with 17. John Hender added 13.
The Phantoms shot out to an early lead in the first quarter against St. Michael in Saturday’s homecoming game. Hender scored on an offensive rebound eight seconds into the game for a promising start. Diaz-Gonzalez later broke a 5-5 tie with a basket and free throw for a three-point play and an 8-5 lead.
After St. Michael had taken a 10-8 advantage, Grand Canyon knotted the score again on a steal and layup by Hender. That came with 2:54 left in the first quarter and it would be the last time the Cardinals would not lead.
St. Michael went on a 14-3 run in the last 2:54 with Grand Canyon’s three points coming at the 14-second mark on a Mitchell Walker three-pointer.
Hender had to hit the bench after getting into foul trouble and without his presence inside, the Phantoms couldn’t keep pace. St. Michael went up 37-15 more than halfway through the third quarter.
The Phantoms had a strong finish to the first half with a 7-2 run. Walker had back-to-back baskets, including a three-point play and Diaz-Gonzalez scored at the 1:27 mark.
Grand Canyon trimmed another point off the deficit in the third quarter, but still trailed by 16 with eight minutes to play. Diaz-Gonzalez had a steal and hoop with 1:30 left in the quarter.
St. Michael went into its stall game with more than a minute on the clock at the end of both the second and third quarters to keep Grand Canyon from generating offense.
In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals maintained their lead. Two baskets by Diaz-Gonzalez was all Grand Canyon could generate in the pivotal first half of the final frame.
St. Michael ended up winning by 26 at the final buzzer.
Diaz-Gonzalez had another fine night on the court with 18 points on six field goals and 6-for-12 free-throw shooting. Walker scored 12 points, which included the three-pointer. Hender was held to nine points in limited action because of foul trouble.
The game was physical and Boynton felt the officials played a role.
“The kids fought hard from start to finish,” Boynton said. “Hender was in foul trouble most of the game .... St. Michael is a good team, a really good team. The officials didn’t win the game for them, but they caused the injuries.”
In the second half, a St. Michael player had to leave the game after taking a shot to the head. Players were aggressive because of the style of play allowed on the court.
Grand Canyon (4-5, 7-11) heads to Fredonia Thursday for a makeup game before hosting Shonto Prep Friday (6:30 p.m. boys start) in the final home game of the season. The team heads to St. Michael Saturday.
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