Attacking the basket leads Central girls to win

Attacking the basket leads Central girls to first win

Central High School’s Jordan Eller, 3, takes a shot past Cheyenne South’s Destiny Larallde in the last few seconds of the first half of Thursday’s game at Fruita Monument.

It had Central High School girls basketball coach Todd Dixon jumping off the bench like he’d sat on a tack, and it was the most fundamental play in basketball: The give and go.

Central guard Taylor Hice, above the 3-point line with a minute left in the fourth quarter Thursday, passed the ball to Jordan Eller, then cut to the basket. Eller delivered the ball on one bounce to Taylor, who laid the ball in as Central polished off a win over Cheyenne South, 53-45, at Fruita Monument High School’s Wildcat Invitational.

“Hey,” Taylor told Dixon afterward. “That works.”

It’s beginning to work for Central (1-3).

Brittany Hoppe, who finished with 19 points and three 3-pointers, ignited the Warriors in the second half with stifling defense, a 3-pointer that gave Central a fourth-quarter lead, and an offensive drive late that put Central on a run.  Like the give and go, she stuck to the basics with a most fundamental basketball move: the crossover dribble.

With Central up 43-39, Hoppe drove to the hoop, crossed the ball over — leaving a defender with shaky ankles — and leaned to her left to lay the ball off the glass. Four minutes later the Warriors were up 51-41 on their way to their first win.

“It’s always good to get that monkey off your back,” Dixon said.

Dixon, of course, was the Warriors’ rally monkey.  Central trailed by 10 in the first half when Dixon called a timeout. In a silent gym, Dixon blasted his players on the bench. Heads in the stands froze. It says Warriors on your jersey, Dixon told them. Attack the basket.

And they did.

“Dixon is not going to give up on us,” said Eller, who finished with 11 points. “He’s going to drive us to be the best we can be. We’re Warriors and we’re here for war. The first two or three games we played scared and finally we came out to play not to lose.”

Dani Noble led Cheyenne South (0-4) with 22 points.

With Dixon’s motivational speaking behind the Central defense that caused numerous turnovers in the fourth quarter, including a 10-second violation, Central played more Warrior-like. The Warriors are starting to fit the name on their jerseys.

Like Dixon told his girls afterward, they became a little more “red” that night.

“The girls’ game is evolving so fast,” Dixon said. “Women are physical and competitive and have hearts of lions. They trust when I’m getting on them that it’s not personal and it’s someone lighting a fire so you can be better than you thought you could be.”

Grand Junction 50, Cherokee Trail 37: The Tigers cruised to the victory with shut-down defense, team play and touch from the free-throw line.

“It’s definitely a plus to see the girls playing this well on defense,” coach Sam Provenza said. “They’re young, but it usually takes longer for our offense to come around. Defense is athleticism, heart and hustle.”

The Tigers (4-1) had 13 steals.

“We play hard, hustle, play with a lot of heart and communicate well,” Tigers forward Jamie Derrieux said. “We’re talking each other through every screen and cut.”

Derrieux led the Tigers with 26 points, most coming from penetrating the lane or at the free-throw line. She was put on her back several times, but made the most of being fouled, making 14 of 17 free throws.

“I honestly think that’s the worst it’s been in awhile,” Derrieux said of the contact in the lane. “But the referees did a good job protecting the shooter.”

Junction pushed its lead to double figures, 24-14, early in the second quarter on a bucket by Derrieux.

Shafer Rubalcaba added a three-point play to extend the lead, and the Tigers led by double digits the rest of the game.

— Matt Meyer


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