Central overcomes slow start to top Cortez

With 4:40 left in the first quarter Saturday afternoon, Central High School boys basketball coach Ryan Hayden had seen enough. The Warriors hadn’t scored a point against Montezuma-Cortez, and they weren’t executing offensively. He pointed down his bench, in order, jabbing his finger at five different players. Then he subbed out his entire starting lineup.

“Last night we opened up to Durango with a very sluggish start,” Hayden said. “I felt like we were off to a similar sluggish start, and we needed some energy. We’re trying to limit those starts and limiting the mental lapses.”

With 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter and Central trailing 9-4, Hayden sent his starters back in. They apparently got Hayden’s message. A 12-0 run, highlighted by two 3-pointers from Preston Grandbouche and an alley-oop to Trey Fair, put the Warriors up 18-9, and they carried that momentum to a 56-51 victory.

Central extended it’s lead to double digits halfway through the third quarter by working inside-out. The Warriors made three of seven shots from beyond the arc, but they focused on getting the ball into the post against Cortez, something Hayden said they will continue to work on moving forward.

“We’re maturing as a team, maturing as players,” Hayden said. “You know, honestly, you hear four (wins) in six (games), and it just doesn’t feel like it. It’s still an uphill battle for us, but it’s a battle we’re willing to fight. We’re going to stay competitive.”

Grandbouche led the Warriors with 13 points. All of his points came either beyond the 3-point arc or at the free-throw line. Fair and Edward Becoat added 10 points apiece, and Giles Woolsey chipped in nine points and three assists.

For Montezuma-Cortez, Brack Whiteskunk led the way with 15 points, 14 in the fourth quarter. His scoring surge was part of a 28-point fourth quarter for the Panthers, more than their first three quarters combined.

Central’s four wins in its past six games, the winningest stretch in Hayden’s two-year tenure, puts the Warriors at 6-9 for the season. The six victories tie their total for the previous two seasons combined.

Central will host crosstown rival Grand Junction on Tuesday and face the challenge of stopping Tigers guard Broderick Robinson, whom Hayden considers one of the best players in the state.

“Junction is a phenomenal team, first and foremost,” Hayden said. “It’s easy for our guys to get up for Junction, because it’s an in-town game, and there is a lot of pride that goes along with that. We have to control their size and their speed, especially with Broderick. We need to have a good defensive game plan and stick to that.”

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