In response to a lethargic performance on the road Monday against Mohave, the Coconino Panthers talked about energy before hosting the Prescott Badgers.
“We were scoring, but it was like we were in a slump, so we came out in the second half and went after it," Maya Tijerin said of Monday's 56-34 win.
The energy and the message flowed into Friday, as Tijerin was one of four Panthers to score five points, and Coconino held Prescott to just eight first-half points on the way to a 51-31 victory, recording its fifth straight regular-season victory to improve to 5-1.
Freshman Oniah Barton-Paddock set the tone early with the completion of a three-point play for the Panthers, who handed the struggling Badgers their fourth straight loss and moved to 3-0 in the Grand Canyon Region with the win. Prescott, which hadn't scored 30 or more points in its three games prior to Coconino, put in a layup early but was held off the scoreboard for the remainder of the first period.
“It’s buy-in from the girls, them trusting what we are teaching, trusting the process to get better," said Panthers head coach Martin Reyes.
Barton-Paddock finished her night with four points, but her early effort showed up and down the court. She found Taylor Hansen cutting up the middle for an easy layup to make it 5-2, and teammate Jada Golding, who along with Kortnee Begaye tallied a team-high eight points, soon turned a steal at half court into a basket.
Coconino's defense had a ripple effect that stirred up more than just easy baskets on the other end. After going into halftime with a 33-8 lead that grew to 41-12 four minutes into the third quarter, Reyes started platooning in reserves.
“I carry 13 girls on my varsity team, and it doesn’t matter where your playing time and your playing order is, I expect you to work hard in practice and work hard on your game and be as good as you can be, so when the opportunity comes we want to reward those young ladies with minutes, and it’s a learning process for them, too,” said Reyes, adding that the extra minutes his bench picked up will help the team in the long run.
But Reyes wanted to see more from his rotations. After making the five-person switch, Prescott outscored Coconino 7-2 before the third quarter expired.
“I have four seniors, but we are a team that’s still learning to play together,” Reyes said.
The Panthers took Badgers guard Theresa Gutierrez out of the equation from the start after she had her first-period layup and failed three-point play attempt, double-teaming the senior and limiting her to seven points for the game.
“If we can take an opponent's point guard out of running an offense, then it allows us to perform defensively. It creates havoc, it creates uncertainty on their end,” Reyes said.
Begaye brought down 10 rebounds and had three steals, and Dre'tine White, whose second-quarter jump shot made it a 30-8 Coconino advantage, added five boards. Nine players had a basket for the Panthers in the first half, with Sarah Chatter and Kaylee Begay each contributing a 3-pointer.
Tijerin, Begay, Kailani Charlie and Trinity Gencarelle notched five points apiece for Coconino, which went 11 for 15 at the free-throw line as Prescott finished 4 of 13 at the charity stripe.
Taylor Hansen, dishing out three straight assists during a surge, helped lead an 8-0 run in the third quarter that made it 41-8 in favor of Coconino, which spent most of the final quarter toying with lineups.
Moving forward, the team, despite responding well to a previous game's slow start so far this season, wants to play all four quarters from start to finish with the energy they exhibited Friday. Tijerin sees that happening.
“I have faith in my team that we can come out and play our hearts out and have great talk on the floor, great defense, great transitioning into offense; I have full faith in what we are doing here," the senior said.
The Panthers break off of region play for a 4A Conference matchup against the winless Greenway Demons on Tuesday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.