With two games on the schedule Friday, the Coconino Panthers girls basketball team got in a good warm-up at the Pepsi Holiday Tournament against the San Tan Foothills Sabercats before losing in the final seconds to the St. Mary's Knights, 39-37.
Looking to reach the tournament semifinals, and potentially set up a game against rival Flagstaff in the title game, Coconino took a 28-14 lead into halftime. However, St. Mary's rallied back and trailed just 32-27 at the end of three.
Coconino's offense continued to struggle in the fourth, as St. Mary's outscored the Panthers 12-5 in the last eight minutes and connected on the winning shot in the final seconds.
Lanessa Palencia led the Knights with 22 points, including 10 in the final quarter. Oniah Barton-Paddock finished with 13 points for the Panthers, with Taylor Hansen adding eight.
The Panthers, who were led on the offensive side by Maya Tijerin's 12 points, shut out the Sabercats in the dome at Flagstaff High School in the first half on the way to the 46-11 blowout. San Tan Foothills, a 2A Conference program, finally lit up their side of the scoreboard when Taryn Cordts drained a 3-pointer with 5:47 left to play in the third quarter.
By the time the Sabercats, who struggled just to get onto their side of the court during much of the opening half, got in another 3 nearly two minutes after snapping the scoring drought, the 4A Panthers held a 32-6 lead.
The Sabercats opened their tournament with a 63-4 loss to 4A Cactus.
It was good chance for Coconino to show improvements, as their bigs finished under the hoop, boxed out and controlled the paint.
“I really liked my bigs. They played real well,” said Panthers head coach Martin Reyes.
Using a triangle offense at times, Coconino's Trinity Gencarelle, Kortnee Begaye, Marilee David and Tijerin all put in work near the hoop with success. David ended up with six points, Begaye put up three and Gencarelle added two.
“It’s a good high-low offense," Reyes said. "It gives us good looks, and it gives us that best shot for a shooter that goes inside out.”
Jada Golding tallied 10 points, all coming in the first half. She hit from beyond the arc in the opening quarter after making a free throw, and had three field goals in the second. Golding had the offense moving from the start, assisting a baseline-cutting Kaylee Begay for a layup that made it an 8-0 game.
Hansen also had six points against San Tan Foothills, which connected on three treys in the third quarter. Eight different Panthers scored in the pool play game. Begay had her team's only other 3, which came in the third quarter to make it 31-0 a minute into the new half.
"I am proud of my girls. We talked about how in the Kingman game we came out not focused, not ready to go, and today we came out with good energy and executed the game plan," Reyes said, alluding to Thursday's 64-31 victory over the Bulldogs. "For my girls, it's tough for them to slow down when they have a break."
At one point, Coconino forced a turnover and had an open court ahead, but Reyes called a timeout before the fast break could turn into possible points.
With the second-place finish in their pool, pending a victory by St. Mary's against winless Kingman at 8 a.m., the Panthers will face the Maricopa Rams at 3:30 p.m. at Flagstaff Middle School.
The Rams beat Hopi and Lake Havasu in their first two games on Thursday before losing to Winslow Friday morning.