Winder overcomes miscues to lead Tigers past Longmont in basketball

Basketball coaches have love-hate relationships with their point guards.

Dutch Johnson at times was frustrated Saturday afternoon with Tyler Winder when the Grand Junction High School boys basketball team was turning the ball over against Longmont in the Warrior Challenge.

“We sharpened up in the second half when Longmont was pressuring out, especially late in the game when we had the lead,” Johnson said. “It’s getting better, but it’s still a work in progress.”

Down the stretch, though, the senior point guard was tough as nails, hitting 3-pointer to break a 31-31 tie, taking care of the ball against Longmont’s trapping defense and making a pair of free throws to help ice the Tigers’ 42-38 victory over Class 4A’s top-ranked team.

“When we had all those turnovers in that stretch we weren’t doing what we’ve been trained to do,” Winder said. “We went back to how we practiced over the week. We knew (the pressure) was coming, we just had to execute.”

Grand Junction (2-1) did a nice job against Longmont’s 6-foot-7 center, Justin Traxinger, fronting him in the post with James Wilkinson or Zach Kiel and getting help on the weak side.

“We rotated those guys on the big donkey,” Johnson said. “They did a great job. If you play behind him he’s just going to back you in under the basket and bury you.”

Traxinger finished with seven points.

Once Grand Junction started getting more pressure on the ball, it took Longmont out of its game and got the Tigers into theirs.

They also got Sean Rubalcaba more involved in the paint, and he responded with a dozen points, half from the free-throw line. Casey Burns led Grand Junction with 14 points before fouling out, hitting a 3 from the wing early in the fourth quarter for a 29-26 lead.

Longmont came back to tie the game with 3:35 to pay before Winder’s 3 from the corner. Burns added a 12-foot jumper from the wing and with 1:11 left, Burns found Rubalcaba cutting to the basket for a layup and a 38-32 lead as the Tigers were running time off the clock.

Smoky Hill 57, Fruita Monument 51: The Wildcats ran hot and cold, and got cold at the wrong time, scoring only six points in the third quarter after a 21-point second quarter gave them a 33-29 halftime lead.

The Buffaloes, coached by former Palisade player and coach Keenon Clement, got physical inside with the Wildcats’ Drew Bridges, never allowing him to get in a rhythm inside.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen Bridges, and man, that kid is the real deal,” Clement said. “Our kids saw him (Friday) night. I’ve never seen him in a rainstorm, but that kid might walk on water. He’s so good.”

Bridges finished with 12 points. James Lewis led the Wildcats (1-2) with 13 and Alex Padgett added 10. Preston Ganaway and Denis Terzic each scored 15 for Smoky Hill (2-1).

“The biggest thing for Drew, as a sophomore he may have gotten away with people not knowing who he is,” Fruita coach Dave Fox said. “They know who he is now.”

A 3 by Smoky Hill’s Tarabi Carter to open the fourth quarter triggered an 11-4 run for a 53-43 lead.

Fruita’s only points in that span came from Bridges, who converted a three-point play and hit one of two free throws with 6:20 to play.

He hit a short jumper off an inbounds play and made another free throw to end Smoky Hill’s run and cut the lead to 53-46 with 2:49 to play.

“That’s why you play these early games against (good teams). You learn something,” Fox said. “I think sometimes you learn more from the tough losses.”


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