The Coconino Panthers girls basketball team came out on fire offensively and used its strong defense to hold the Prescott Badgers to their lowest-scoring game of the 2015-16 season in order to advance to the section tournament title game.
The Panthers, the third seed of the Division II, Section Two tourney, upset the second-seeded Badgers Thursday at Sunnyslope High in Phoenix, ending Prescott's eight-game win streak with a 47-26 victory.
Coconino, which last won a section title in 2014, will meet fifth-seeded Thunderbird High on Saturday to decide who wins the section. The game is set for 5 p.m. at Sunnyslope.
In his first year at the helm, Panthers head coach Martin Reyes will get a shot at bringing home some championship hardware, but he knows Thunderbird is playing stout basketball.
"They are a different animal now. It's going to be a great game," Reyes said.
Playing at home in mid-December, Coconino topped the Thunderbird Chiefs 53-45 in the team's only regular-season meeting.
The Panthers scored 18 first-quarter points while holding the Badgers to seven. Coconino also closed the game strong, outscoring Prescott 13-5 in the final stanza.
Reyes said his team found its offensive rhythm thanks to taking a relaxed attitude into a stressful game.
"We came out, we were relaxed and didn't feel any stress, didn't feel any pressure, and it showed early on. Offensively we were hitting shots and doing what we wanted to do," Reyes said.
JJ Nakai had 19 points for the Panthers, who as of press time sit as the No. 16 team in D-II.
The top 16 teams will be first-round hosts when the state tournament starts Wednesday.
The Badgers spoiled the Panthers' regular-season finale in Prescott on Saturday by five points. Coconino entered the section tournament on a two-game skid after falling to Flagstaff High last Friday.
Marissa Copley recorded 14 points for the Panthers, who took a 27-18 lead into halftime. Jocelynn Benally added eight to the scoreboard, with Kortnee Begaye contributing four and Jalisa Ingram notching two.
Coconino beat sixth-seeded Moon Valley, 55-50, on Tuesday in double-overtime to get past the first round.
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Page moved into the championship game of the D-III, Section I girls basketball tournament Thursday night with its fourth win over Winslow this season.
The win in Chinle sends the Sand Devils into a 5:15 p.m. championship game with No. 2 seed Chinle Saturday night, also at the Wildcat Den.
Page’s first tune-up for the state tournament did not fully take shape until point guard Myka Taliman ignited a decisive third quarter surge with 10 points. The freshman capped the quarter, and a 45-34 lead, with a quarter-ending block.
Top seed Page (26-4) has now won six in a row, and Ashley Dempsey led the Sand Devils in scoring for the sixth straight game with 17 points.
Fourth-seeded Winslow (15-16) relied on junior guard Danielle James to stay competitive. James, who scored 34 points Tuesday night in a first-round defeat of No. 5 Window Rock (Fort Defiance), finished with 16 points.
Lisa Watson added 14 points for Page, which helped honor retired educator Allen Tsinigine with a moment of silence before tipoff. Tsinigine died suddenly on Wednesday.