Halftime adjustments lift GJ boys past Warriors
From the start of the third quarter until the final two minutes of the game Thursday night, Grand Junction High School boys basketball coach Isaac Madison was happy with the way his team played.
That stretch was enough for the Tigers to pull away from Central for a 58-44 victory in a Southwestern League game at Central High School.
Although the other 18 minutes were problematic, with defensive breakdowns in the first half and frustrating fouls in the final two minutes, Grand Junction’s offense came through when it needed to.
Meanwhile, the Tigers’ defense limited Central, despite plenty of scoring from the perimeter in the first half by the Warriors, who were without leading perimeter scorer Kyle Blair, out with an illness.
“I thought in the third and up to the middle part of the fourth quarter we played pretty well,” Madison said. “We did some dumb things there at the end to keep them in the game and made some bad fouls and some little things.
“We’re coming off a stretch where we’ve played five games in nine days, and four of them have been on the road. (The players are) tired, (the coaching staff is) tired, and it showed in the first half tonight.”
With three minutes left in the first quarter, Central guards Julio Galindo and Nolan Scott hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the Warriors (13-4, 2-2 SWL) a 10-9 lead. Grand Junction (14-4, 5-0) answered with a quick layup and a 3-pointer from Robi Powers. A Warriors’ jumper cut Grand Junction’s lead to 14-12, and Koby Steves hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from well beyond the arc to give Central a 15-14 lead through one quarter.
Both teams traded 3-pointers during the second quarter, and Central held its one-point edge at halftime.
But then, like they did against Fruita Monument on Tuesday, the Tigers opened the third quarter with a scoring run.
Three field goals on three trips down the floor, capped by a 3-pointer from Powers, gave Grand Junction the breathing room it needed.
Powers said the Tigers needed to refocus at halftime, especially on defense.
“We need to come out from the first tip playing hard,” he said. “We can’t come out and not play full force. We knew Central had great 3-point shooters, and we knew we needed to come out and contest them from the beginning of the game. We made some quick adjustments at half and got out on them more. That’s what helped us.”
Central forward Zach Labine ended Grand Junction’s run with layups on consecutive possessions, drawing a foul on the second but missing the free throw. The Warriors trailed 33-28 with 4:30 left in the third.
Grand Junction quickly responded with a 3-pointer from Peyton Miller and a pair of baskets inside by Ben Rasmussen. The Tigers then used free throws and another 3-pointer from Miller to pull away in the fourth.
Powers paced Grand Junction with 17 points, Rasmussen added 10, and Miller scored nine. Jake Wilcox, the Tigers’ leading scorer on the season, finished with only eight points, but he facilitated the offense with his passing despite foul trouble.
Central was led by Galindo’s 11 points, and Hunter Kelchner chipped in nine.
Madison said although Grand Junction is halfway through its league schedule, there’s more work to be done.
“We have Montrose on Tuesday night and three more games next week,” Madison said. “Our schedule’s pretty tough, and that’s not something we’re going to make an excuse of. We have to go out and play.”