Slowing the best

Tigers must limit Regis' Josh Perkins to advance in 5A playoffs

Broderick Robinson and the Grand Junction Tigers face a tough challenge today in the Class 5A Sweet 16: Stopping Regis Jesuit’s Josh Perkins, who is one of the state’s best scorers. Perkins averages 25 points per game.



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Broderick Robinson and the Grand Junction Tigers face a tough challenge today in the Class 5A Sweet 16: Stopping Regis Jesuit’s Josh Perkins, who is one of the state’s best scorers. Perkins averages 25 points per game.

QUICKREAD

Boys basketball Class 5A State Tournament

Grand Junction (18-5) at Regis Jesuit (20-4), 7 p.m. today at Regis Jesuit High School, Aurora

The coaches

Regis Jesuit — Ken Shaw

Grand Junction — Dutch Johnson, 10th season

Top players

Regis Jesuit — Josh Perkins, 6-2, jr., G, 25 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 6.8 apg, 40 steals; Bryan Staerkel, 6-2, soph., G/F, 9.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 24 steals; Kip Boryla, 6-5, soph., F, 7.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 20 blocks, 28 steals; Devin Kadillak, 6-2, jr., G, 7.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg; Eric Stemper, 6-1, sr., G, 6.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.9 apg, 27 steals; Zach Smith, 5-11, jr., G, 4.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 25 steals; Elijah Sanford, 6-2, soph., F, 3.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 13 blocks.

Grand Junction — Broderick Robinson, 6-0, jr., 15.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 25 steals; D.J. Wells, 6-7, soph., 11.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 38 blocks, 21 steals; Zach Kiel, 6-3, sr., 8.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, 20 steals; Kyler Rose, 6-5, sr., 4.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg; Greg Eccher, 5-8, jr., 4.2 ppg, 2.3 apg, 20 steals.

About the Raiders

■ They attempt 20 3-pointers per game and make nearly seven per game, led by Perkins with 44 3-pointers on 147 attempts (30 percent). Kadillak has made 31, Staerkel 26 and Smith 19. Six players have made at least 10 3-pointers.

■ They shoot 48 percent from the field.

■ Perkins has taken nearly half of the team’s free throws, making 191 of 257, 74 percent. The team is shooting 68 percent from the line, 360 of 532.

■ They average nearly nine steals per game and commit nearly 13 turnovers per game.

■ Five players are listed at 6-foot-2. The only player taller than that is Boryla, who is 6-5.

■ Team has three seniors, three juniors and six sophomores on its roster.

■ Raiders are ranked sixth in most recent 5A state poll. They won the 5A/4A Continental League title with a 10-1 record.

■ Three of their four losses came in the first seven games of the season: 81-77 to Columbine; 66-45 to Millennium of Goodyear, Ariz.; and 80-66 to Overland. Raiders have won eight games in a row since a 77-73 loss to Mountain Vista.

About the Tigers

■ They shoot 45 percent from the field and 56 percent from the free-throw line (176 of 316).

■ They make an average of 3.4 3-pointers per game, shooting 34 percent beyond the arc. Robinson leads the team with 34 on 86 attempts, 40 percent. Eccher is next with 19 3-pointers. No one else is in double figures.

■ They average 6.1 steals per game and commit about 8.3 turnovers per game.

■ They have three seniors, six juniors and three sophomores on their roster.

■ They won the Southwestern League with a 9-1 mark.

■ They have won six games in a row since back-to-back losses to Fruita Monument, 41-37 on Feb. 1, and Legend, 64-39 on Feb. 6.

Quoteworthy

“It definitely ups my intensity. I want to be in the conversation with some of those players. That’s definitely going to get me motivated to play a lot harder. I don’t know, it’s personal.”

— Tigers guard Broderick Robinson on being motivated by the challenge of facing Regis Jesuit star Josh Perkins

“It’s huge. Teams over the mountain don’t think much of us, and I want to go over there and make some noise.”

— Robinson on advancing to the 5A playoffs’ Sweet 16

“He’s come a long ways. ... He works hard. He’s become a presence underneath, and we needed that.”

— Grand Junction senior Zach Kiel on the emergence of the Tigers’ 6-7 sophomore D.J. Wells

“When he lives at the rim, he’s good, he’s really good. When he doesn’t fade and get out here on the perimeter and he lives in the paint and by the rim, he’s good. He’s hard to guard, and he can finish, and he makes free throws. And that’s what we’re going to need on Wednesday, because he’s going to have the size on those guys.”

— Tigers coach Dutch Johnson on Wells’ emergence

“I can’t remember.”

— Kiel on when the Tigers last practiced zone defense



Analysis of the statistics leads to a statement of the obvious: To beat the Regis Jesuit High School boys basketball team, you must slow down Josh Perkins.

Every team that played the Raiders (20-4) this season knew that. Of course, no one stopped the 6-foot-2 junior guard who leads Regis in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. Now, Grand Junction (18-5) will try.

Tigers head coach Dutch Johnson didn’t mince words about the one-man gang his team will face at 6 p.m. tonight at Regis Jesuit High School in the Sweet 16 of the Class 5A state playoffs.

“He’s the best player in Colorado,” Johnson said, adding Perkins “is being recruited by the world.

“He’s probably the best player we’ve ever played against and could be the best player we ever will play against.”

Aware of what awaited after Grand Junction’s victory Saturday over Fort Collins in the second round of the playoffs, Johnson bid his assistant coaches adieu that night with a joke: “From now until Monday, learn how to teach zone.”

Only he wasn’t really joking. Johnson believes playing any defense other than man-to-man is next to sacrilege, but Perkins appears to be the desperate time that requires a desperate measure. So, the Tigers included some work on zone defense during their practice Monday.

But Johnson won’t go overboard.

“The teams that have zoned Regis have slowed them down a little bit, slowed Josh down a little bit, and tried to keep him out of the open floor where he’s dangerous,” Johnson said. “I still hesitate to do it because they have such good shooters, and we’re going to have to get out on them, and we haven’t worked on it and played much zone this year. But it may be something after a timeout or a dead ball or coming out of a quarter where we go a possession or two in zone.”

The danger with Perkins is despite scoring 25 points per game, he also gets his teammates involved, evidenced in his nearly seven assists per game.

“That’s what people don’t realize, he’s such a good passer,” Johnson said. “He sees the floor. He’ll make full-length-of-the-court passes, so off the ball you have to be really good. If you fall asleep and your man back-cuts, your man’s open, he’s going to find him.”

And open Raiders are dangerous Raiders.

“The rest of the team is just real solid, real fundamentally sound,” Johnson said. “They don’t beat themselves. And Josh Perkins requires so much attention, and all of the other four guys on the floor are going to be able to shoot 3s, which makes it hard to guard.”

Grand Junction answers with a star guard of its own, junior Broderick Robinson, who plays summer basketball in Denver and is familiar with Perkins.

“I’ve seen him play a bunch,” Robinson said. “He’s a great player. He’s fun to watch. He’s going to be tough to guard, but I think we can do it. He likes to get to the basket, and he draws a lot of fouls. We’ve just got to play straight defense, play defense with our feet, not with our hands, help-side D, make them pass it.”

Robinson relishes the challenge that awaits and believes he and his teammates can meet it.

“It’s a winnable game, definitely, for us,” Robinson said. “Nobody thinks we can come out and win. The pressure’s on them because they’re the No. 1 seed, so we just have to come out and play.”

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