Burns’ hanging dunk subplot as GJ ends Fruita’s streak

Casey Burns of Grand Junction blocks a shot by Fruita Monument’s James Lewis on Friday night in the Tigers’ win over the Wildcats.



After he dunked with two hands, Casey Burns needed a moment for himself — and hung on the rim.

For the Grand Junction High School senior, it was his final game against Fruita Monument. After a momentary sway, in front of a waterfall of standing-room-only Tigers fans at Fruita Monument, Burns let go.

A technical foul was called on Burns for hanging on too long.

But after the third-quarter dunk, Grand Junction hung on as well, holding off a late Fruita rally in the final minutes Friday to grab a 70-65 win.

Grand Junction (11-7, 4-2 Southwestern League) ended Fruita’s 10-game winning streak and ended the Wildcats’ 25-game SWL win streak.

And it did so without head coach Dutch Johnson, who was suspended last week for one game after the Tigers’ loss to Montrose.

And the T? Burns said it was worth it.

“Yeah, it was worth it,” said Burns, who scored 20 points. “I told some friends if I dunked I was going to hang onto the rim a bit more.”

But what separated the Tigers from Fruita came well before the dunk. In the first quarter, Grand Junction came out sizzling from 3-point range, taking a 28-8 lead. Justin Whiting had a pair of 3s to open the game and finished with 17 points, including four 3s.

Burns had two 3s.

Broderick Robinson had two 3s.

Shane Powers also knocked in a triple.

But the most excited Tiger in the end seemed to be their quarterback during the football season, Sean Rubalcaba.

After Grand Junction survived 3-pointers in the final minute by Alex Padgett (19 points) and Cody Daniels (11 points), Rubalcaba, once the final buzzer sounded, stuck two fingers in the air, ran a 10-yard dash and shouted before meeting a line of Fruita players at halfcourt to offer the traditional sportsmanship hand shakes.

“They’ve had our number the last couple years,” Rubalcaba said. “I never beat them at basketball the last three years of varsity.”

Fruita Monument (16-3, 5-1) was led by Drew Bridges’ 24 points. Bridges hit a long jumper with 15 seconds left to put Fruita within 70-65.

But Grand Junction’s hot shooting, which was not present when Fruita won 64-34 at Junction, stuffed the Wildcats in an early hole.

“I have to give their kids credit,” Fruita coach Dave Fox said. “Their kids were on fire.”

Down 28-8, Fruita went on an 8-0 run and cut the lead to 34-22 by halftime.

Grand Junction’s interim coach, Clay Keithley, took input from some players on the bench as he considered substitutions.

“Our kids on the bench, they’d tell me to stay with what we’ve got on the court,” Keithley said.

And then they’d tell him something coaches rarely hear.

“They’d say, ‘Don’t put me in,’ ” Keithley said.

Keithley said Johnson was suspended after referees overheard Johnson, in a room separate from the referees, talking about the officiating.

Perhaps the loss of their bench leader was motivation on top of the fact this rivalry is traditionally heated.

“The kids came out to play and they played up to their potential,” Keithley said. “I don’t think we’ve played with that much effort.”

For Burns, the excitement began Thursday night.

“Last night I couldn’t fall asleep,” he said. “I stayed awake for like 30 minutes.”

Palisade 64, Glenwood Springs 46: Kane Gunther scored 16 points Friday night as Palisade High School won at Glenwood Springs.

Caleb Hall had 10 points, including three 3-pointers, and Kyle Monger chipped in 10 points as Palisade (15-4, 7-1 4A Western Slope League) snapped a two-game losing skid.

Durango 56, Central 36: Central (0-20) was led by Taylor Sanchez’s 17 points in a loss to Durango.


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