Big halftime lead evaporates for GJ in loss to Durango
Through one quarter Friday night, Grand Junction High School led Durango 9-1. And at halftime, the Tigers led 19-5.
But the Demons had big runs to start the third and fourth quarters, and leading scorer Katrina Chandler found her rhythm as Durango beat the Tigers 35-26 in a Southwestern League girls basketball game at Grand Junction.
Outstanding team defense anchored the Tigers (8-12, 1-5 SWL) in the first half, keeping defenders in front of Chandler at all times and forcing her teammates to make plays. The Demons, in turn, honed in on Grand Junction’s Tori Catlett but struggled to contain senior guards Avery Hill and Jill Payne.
Hill made two tough layups in the second quarter, and Payne hit a pair of 3-pointers, including one from NBA range to end the first half.
The Tigers were aided by poor shooting from the Demons. Durango (11-4, 3-2) didn’t make its first field goal until Shilo Gillen drained a jumper with less than four minutes remaining in the second quarter. It was the first field goal for either team in more than five minutes.
“The defensive intensity in the first half was as good as it’s been all season,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said. “Came out with lots of fire. I thought we were aggressive, smart aggressive, too. Not many fouls.
“On offense, we moved the ball as well as we have all year.”
The Tigers’ 14-point halftime lead evaporated as Chandler opened the third quarter by making a 3-pointer to spark a 15-0 run that she capped with a steal and layup late in the quarter to give the Demons a 20-19 lead.
With less than 10 seconds left in the third, Madi Younker completed a three-point play to put Grand Junction back on top to start the final quarter, but Chandler hit another 3-pointer, starting a 10-0 run for the Demons.
With Durango up 30-22 with 3:42 remaining, Grand Junction cut that lead to four points before the Demons pulled away at the free-throw line.
Chandler finished with a game-high 13 points, 12 in the second half. After scoring five points in the first half, the Demons scored 30 in the second.
Durango coach Tim Fitzpatrick said the game could have easily turned out poorly for the Demons.
“I was happy with the defensive intensity in the second half,” Fitzpatrick said. “We were not happy with how we played in the first half. We felt like we didn’t play very well. We played poorly enough in the first half that we could have been blown out. I mean, it was 19-5.”
Younker led the Tigers with eight points, and Payne and Catlett scored six apiece.
Provenza said Younker, a junior, has played with more confidence as the season has progressed.
“She’s taking good shots, and we’re putting her in good positions on the floor to hit those shots,” Provenza said.
As for the second-half struggles, Provenza said momentum swung away from his team.
“I don’t think the movement was as good defensively in the second half,” he said. “(Durango) got some confidence in the second half, hit some shots, and we got tentative on offense. When you get tentative, the ball ends up short and gives the other team more confidence.”
Fitzpatrick said a second-half press helped spark Durango’s offense.
“We made a couple shots to give us some energy, and that kinda got our defense going,” he said. “We changed up our defenses a little, started picking them up full-court and see if that could get us going and get some easy baskets.”