2nd-half Tigers

Junction rallies after halftime to defeat 'Dogs

Grand Junction’s Bri Baldwin leans into a Palisade defender to try to score Tuesday night in the Tigers’ 38-22 victory over the Bulldogs at Brownson Arena. Baldwin had two points in the win. Special to the Sentinel/Chuck Pearson

From the bench, the voice of Sam Provenza reached the ears of forward Elisha Jahnke: “Elisha, stay right there,” he said, “Stay right there.”

Jahnke stayed. Then lurched forward. As Provenza teaches his girls in such a situation, it’s not the ball that matters, nor the player. It’s the passing lane. Jahnke jumped the gap, stole a pass and took off down court.

“Ha,” Provenza said. “There you go.”

And there Grand Junction and Jahnke went. The Tigers’ junior forward finished the third-quarter layup and Grand Junction ran away from Palisade for a 38-22 win Tuesday night at Brownson Arena.

In the first half, Provenza saw more of a jungle. The Tigers
 (4-0), after winning three games on the Front Range last weekend, were playing their first game in front of family, and on the expansive court at Colorado Mesa University. Palisade, playing its first game, smacked balls loose, snatching up most loose ones, and had an 8-0 lead in the first quarter after Cruz Maestas hit four unanswered baskets.

Grand Junction was missing layups, struggling to catch passes in the post — on and on — as Palisade took a 13-11 first-half lead.

“Good teams know how to work their way out of the mess, and that’s what we did,” Provenza said. “They worked their way out of the mess. Kind of like a jungle with the vines in the way, they had to work through those vines.”

Jahnke, in that sense, carried the machete. She followed an early second-half jump shot with five steals, including the one off instruction from Provenza. She finished with a seven points.

Palisade began getting into foul trouble, and with nine players on varsity, the Bulldogs (0-1) could not be as aggressive on defense.

“We pretty much had to change our whole game,” said Palisade first-year coach Danielle Bagwell. “We got into foul trouble so we had to change our defense. We didn’t move our feet well.”

Grand Junction began showing its speed with Jahnke, Sydni Brandon and Bri Baldwin, as well as its height advantage. The Tigers began lobbing the ball down low, where Sarah Wilkinson (seven points) and freshman Tori Catlett (four) were waiting.

That’s right — the freshman Catlett. She’s 5-foot-11, the second-tallest on the team behind the 6-foot Wilkinson.

“She’s going to be something special,” Provenza said.

The Tigers could be as well.

“We were missing everything (in the first half),” Brandon said, “but we got our nerves out and started playing our game. It was a matter of: ‘We know we can play better than this.’ “

Baldwin, the Tigers’ 5-8 junior guard, left in the third quarter. Earlier, she had fallen, landing on her right wrist after a layup. She does not think she’ll miss the Tigers’ next game Thursday against Air Academy at the Fruita Monument Wildcat Invitational.

As long as she can run, she might not need a wrist at 100 percent.

“We like to run the ball and we have an amazing fast break,” Baldwin said. “We’re fast, we know where each other is going to be and when they’re going to be there.”

In short, they know how to escape the jungle.

“They’re athletes; those are competitors out there,” Provenza said. “They’re a bunch of kids who know what it means to compete, know what it is to win. And Elisha Jahnke said, ‘I found my path, guys, you follow me.’ ”


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