Too little, too late for GJ
Tigers' second-half rally falls short in Sweet 16
FORT COLLINS — Things started going poorly for Grand Junction almost immediately after the opening tip in its Class 5A state girls basketball playoff Tuesday night.
The Tigers turned the ball over on their first three possessions and finished with six first-quarter turnovers.
Star point guard Sydni Brandon picked up two first-quarter fouls, forcing her to sit the final three minutes of the opening quarter.
Those factors gave Poudre, the second seed in the Alice Barron Region, an early advantage, and although third-seeded Grand Junction rallied, the Tigers ultimately fell 49-36, ending their season in the Sweet 16.
Poudre (20-5) led 24-15 at halftime, holding Brandon scoreless in the first two quarters. Grand Junction (22-3) shot only 37 percent in the first half as it struggled against Poudre’s length and athleticism.
Things changed quickly in the third quarter, as Grand Junction rallied and cut the Poudre lead to three points.
“We were definitely executing differently,” Tigers senior Sarah Wilkinson said. “One of our biggest things is to come out quickly in those first three minutes and go strong.”
Most coaches would call a timeout in that situation as momentum shifted, but Poudre coach Curtis Glesmann allowed his senior-heavy squad to handle it.
“We’ve been through those before. I didn’t call a timeout because I trust the team,” Glesmann said. “We’ve been through those situations, and we’ve had a tough schedule, so I feel like we’re really battle-tested. We know how to deal with those situations.”
After the initial wave, Grand Junction wasn’t able to sustain its offense. The lead for Poudre grew to 12 in the middle of the fourth quarter, and the Tigers didn’t muster another rally.
The game started as a matchup of the top defenses in 5A. Poudre allows 32.5 points per game, first in 5A. Grand Junction is second at 35 points allowed per game.
Grand Junction found some openings, especially early in the third quarter, but it couldn’t score with consistency.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of different sets and a whole bunch of different offenses. You kind of poke and prod and find what works,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said. “We found some spots that were soft. We just didn’t go to those places enough.”
Tori Catlett led the Tigers with 10 points. Brandon added nine points and Erika Meister finished with seven.
Provenza praised Poudre’s defense, but the Impalas’ offense impressed him more.
Colorado State University signee Myanne Hamm had a game-high 15 points. Ashley McDaniel was limited to two points in the first half, but she finished with 12. Her twin, McKenzie McDaniel, had nine points in the first half and finished with 11.
“We’ve played teams that have individuals, but not a team that had that many kids you had to cover,” Provenza said. “You can guard one or two, but you have to guard three of them.”
Grand Junction players slowly filed out of the locker room with tears in their eyes 15 minutes after the game ended to greet a small contingent of fans who made the trip over the mountains.
“It might take a little while to slowly get there, but we’ve had a great season, and I’m really proud of the team,” Wilkinson said.