Solid defense not enough as GJ falls in OT

Casey Burns was a defensive force for Grand Junction.

In the first half alone, he recorded four blocks and a steal. But it was his spinning jumper, the only points he didn’t score from the charity stripe, that pushed the defensive struggle against Fountain-Fort Carson to overtime Thursday night at The Warrior Challenge boys basketball tournament. His efforts weren’t enough as the Tigers eventually fell 56-49.

“We had a lot of silly mistakes in the second half,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “They used the high ball screens to get [Brent Jackson] open and we didn’t defend that well. They got into the lane, drew a lot of fouls, and it helps that they actually made their free throws.”

Neither team could get much going offensively, but the Tigers found momentum at the end of the first quarter when Dylan Bennett hit a transition three to shrink the deficit to 13-9 ending the first quarter.

Garrett Harrison started the second quarter scoring when he hit a corner three. Harrison drained another three to tie the game 15-15 and hit his third straight from downtown for the first Tigers lead of the night, 18-17.

“[Our three point shooting] was huge,” Johnson said. “I think we made four in the second quarter and those points were big because we were really struggling to score after falling behind in the first quarter.”

With four seconds left, Burns air-balled and off balance jumper, but Bennett tipped in the rebound as the buzzer sounded to give the Tigers a 24-21 halftime advantage.

After drawing even early in the fourth quarter, Justin Whiting hit a deep-corner three for a 34-31 Tiger advantage. Grand Junction hit seven free throws and took a lead, but a late turnover cost the Tigers.

Carbon (Utah) 45, Palisade 34: A slow start offensively and rough defense hurt the Bulldogs in their first match up of the Warrior Challenge.

“We didn’t play defense,” Palisade coach Steve Phillips said. “You can’t take minutes off, and it’s hard to play defense when you’re not scoring.”

The Bulldogs started 0-for-7 from the field before Caleb Hall sank an open three to bring the score to 6-3. From there, Hall made two free throws and Kane Gunther hit a corner three to end the quarter down 9-8.

Carbon County scored 11 unanswered points on five Bulldog turnovers before Connor Whaley hit a set of free throws to put Palisade on the scoreboard in the second quarter. The Dinos nabbed four more steals and drained two transition threes to end the half up 29-14.

Palisade struck first in the second half and cut the deficit to 10, but Carbon County kept its cushion, leading 33-22 to end the third quarter.

For the first time in almost two quarters, Palisade cut Carbon County’s lead to single digits when Caden Woods hit a set of free throws. Palisade further shrunk the lead when Gunther hit a deep three, and a pair of free throws from Zach Marengo put the Bulldogs down by six points with 5:43 to go, but ultimately it wasn’t enough.

Smoky Hill 78, Central 49: First year Central coach Ryan Hayden knows it isn’t easy for players to grasp a new system for the first game of the year. Especially against a high caliber opponent such as Smoky Hill.

So for that reason alone, he gave his team credit.

“I really feel like they went out there and competed and played as tough as they have in a long time,” he said. “I think sometime X’s and O’s are going to come.”

But the opening game of the year didn’t go as smoothly as the Warriors would have liked. After tying the game 4-4 with 5:45 left in the first quarter, the Buffaloes’ defense pressed Central into a 17-4 deficit by the end of the quarter.

By the end of the third, Smoky Hill led 56-27.

Central then scored 22 points in the fourth quarter, largely around Taylor Sanchez, who scored all of his team-high nine points in the quarter. Edward Beacoat also had nine points, all in the second half.


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