GRAND CANYON - After losing its season opener at home to Tuba City Nov. 28, the Grand Canyon Phantoms' boys varsity basketball team rattled off two consecutive road wins against El Capitan and Fredonia.
Grand Canyon (2-1) lost 72-54 to the Tuba City Warriors (1-3). The Phantoms followed that tough home loss with a 74-70 win in a closely contested road matchup against the El Capitan Eagles (2-1) Nov. 30. The Phantoms then defeated the Fredonia Lynx (0-2) on the road easily on Dec. 1 by a score of 50-35.
"We had some good moments where we showed what we were capable of, but we didn't play real cohesively as a unit, especially on the defensive end," said Grand Canyon head basketball coach David Beery, speaking about the season opening loss to Tuba City. "They really took advantage of that, they were able to penetrate and get pretty good looks at the basket against us."
The Phantoms also couldn't get their offense going against Tuba City, scoring only 19 points in the first half. And although their offensive output drastically improved in the second half, it was too little, too late. Grand Canyon ended up losing to Tuba City by 18 points.
"I think we only gave up 70 points once last year, and that was in double overtime," Beery said. "That's not the defensive effort we want."
Overall, the Phantoms just didn't execute offensively very well either, according to Beery. He said they were a little rushed.
Defensively, Beery said his team was finding their man, but then just simply getting beat. Neither zone nor man-to-man worked against the Warriors. Beery added sometimes his players just weren't rotating, or the rotations were very disorganized.
After surrendering 72 points to Tuba City, giving up 70 points to El Capitan two days later is definitely the last thing Grand Canyon wanted to do. But fortunately this time, their offense made up for a less than stellar defensive effort.
"El Capitan has a structured program, has an aggressive man-to-man defense, and is a very good passing team," Beery said heading into the Eagles game. "And it's a really tough place to play."
The Phantoms responded after their loss to Tuba City and showed their toughness with the two consecutive road wins in as many days. And the defensive effort their head coach has been looking for was finally there in the Phantoms' third game of the season, when they only gave up 35 points to Fredonia.
"I'd rather see a poor game like the one against Tuba City in the first game of the year as opposed to later in the season," Beery said. "I'm trying to look at it positively, making that experience something we can build upon and work on."
After only three regular season games, the Phantoms are not just building upon that first game experience, but improving overall as a cohesive basketball unit.
The Williams-Grand Canyon News went to print before Grand Canyon's game on the road Tuesday against Shonto Prep in Shonto, Ariz.
The Phantoms' next game is against Arizona Lutheran Academy (2-1) Thursday at 10 a.m. in Phoenix for the Pepsi Invitational Tournament.
The Grand Canyon girls varsity basketball team also lost their season opener at home to Tuba City on Nov. 28. The Tuba City Warriors easily handled the Lady Phantoms winning by a score of 63-12.
The Lady Phantoms' next game is at home Dec. 11 against the Williams Lady Vikings at 6 p.m.