The universe for the Coconino girls’ basketball team seems to be firmly back in order.
The Lady Panthers returned to form in the opening round of the Arizona Class 4A girls state basketball tournament as No. 3 seed Coconino defeated No. 14 Gila Ridge by a 55-32 count on Tuesday night.
“We had a real good focused effort,” said Coconino girls’ basketball coach Martin Reyes, whose team improved 25-4 overall. “I was kind of worried on how we would come out after the loss on Friday night to Flag High. We took that real hard and it was a pretty devastating blow to us.”
Reyes said his team had a chance to win their game at the end regulation last Friday night, but they missed two free throws as Flagstaff claimed the Grand Canyon Regional Tournament with a 52-43 win that went into overtime.
“We took the whole weekend off, and on Monday when we got back into the gym, we had an okay practice so I didn’t know what to expect from us today,” he said.
With renewed spirits, Reyes said his team played with good energy and slowly pulled away from Gila Ridge.
“We had good discipline and we did the things we needed to do to be a successful basketball team,” he said.
Senior guard JJ Nakai, the Grand Canyon Region Player of the Year, led the Panthers as she finished with 26 points, which included a 5 for 6 effort from the three-point line. Nakai also had five rebounds and three steals.
“JJ is just a phenomenal player,” Reyes said. “She’s the engine that keeps our car running. She did a lot of great things for us and she got us going early.”
With a strong defensive effort, the Lady Eagles also advanced on Tuesday night.
Flagstaff, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, eliminated No. 13 seed Scottsdale Saguaro by a 61-36 with junior Monique Ware leading the team with 20 points while Nizhoni Thomas added nine.
“I felt that we played good,” Flagstaff girls basketball coach Tyrone Johnson said. “We started out a little slow and as the game progressed we got better and we got more energized. We showed more life, especially on the defensive end, which in turn helped us on the offensive end.”
Johnson was pleased with the all-around effort turned in on Tuesday and he’s hoping that translates in their next game when they host No. 5 Pueblo Magnet on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
“I haven’t seen anything from them and hopefully we’ll get some film,” Johnson said. “I just know they lost only one game this season. They have some girls that can shoot the ball. They have a great point guard that gets everyone involved and makes everyone better and she has a great IQ for the game.”