Tigers taking steps in positive direction

Grand Junction High School girls basketball coach Sam Provenza looked at the final totals Saturday morning.

Despite the disparity in the score of his team’s game with ThunderRidge in the Wildcat Invitational at Fruita Monument, he was looking at the long term.

“The scoreboard looked ugly, but we took a couple of steps forward,” Provenza said after his team’s 87-26 loss to the Grizzlies.

Provenza was hoping his team wouldn’t enter the game against ThunderRidge with a ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look.

While there were stretches when the Tigers struggled to handle the Grizzlies’ relentless defensive pressure and showed some signs of frustration, “They weren’t scared,” Provenza said of his
young team.

The Grizzlies are ranked in the top five in Class 5A and are headed to Phoenix later this month to play in the annual Nike tournament, which draws teams from throughout the nation.

“You have to play those kind of teams in order to know how to play at that level,” Provenza said of matching up against ThunderRidge.

The Grizzlies, as usual, broke from the gate quickly, jumping to an 18-1 lead with barely half the first quarter gone. Although the Tigers had only two turnovers to that point, they were 0 for 6 from the field.

ThunderRidge, meanwhile, had few such problems.

“They make big jumps,” Provenza said of the Grizzlies’ penchant for scoring in bunches.
Rachel Messer, the Grizzlies’ senior wing player, said that comes from the intensity the team brings on the other end.

“Coach (Bill) Bradley’s huge on defense, especially at the start of the game,” said Messer, who had seven rebounds and six steals. “Our focus is more on us. We focus on being intense.”

Despite that defensive intensity, Provenza was pleased with the fact that his team was able to break the Grizzlies’ suffocating press at times.

One of ThunderRidge’s strengths is its ability to work the ball around to the open shooter.

“We have a lot of scorers,” Messer said.

It doesn’t matter to them who scores, especially in transition.

“We want to win,” Messer said. “That’s all that matters.”

She helped the cause with a game-high 26 points. Brooke Jenliker added 22 points and seven rebounds to a balanced effort with Carly Needles scoring 19 points and Taylor McRain 13.

Provenza saw some positive things from his reserves, on whom he expects to rely heavily.

“I was really, really pleased with our bench,” he said. “They’re coming off the bench and playing well against good teams.”

Emily Dohm came off the bench to lead Grand Junction with six points.


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