A happy ending
Big fourth quarter lifts GJ past Montrose
After being bumped, Sydni Brandon kissed a low-angle shot off the glass and through the basket. She slid to her back. Staring at the Grand Junction High School rafters in the fourth quarter, Brandon clapped. First lead of the game. There were 55 seconds left.
With Montrose a win away from taking a stronghold on the Southwestern League girls basketball title, Grand Junction rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Indians 44-37.
Where did Grand Junction’s sudden array of steals and free-throw accuracy and blocked shots during the final quarter, a Tigers’ 19-6 advantage, come from?
“I don’t know,” said Brandon, who scored 12 points. “We finally got our heads together. Luckily it wasn’t too late.”
Said Tigers coach Sam Provenza of his team’s chances of a league title: “If (Montrose) would have won this game, it was over.”
Instead, it continues.
Grand Junction (15-3, 5-1 SWL) has four league games remaining. Montrose (12-4, 5-2) has three.
The last thing Provenza wanted was for Montrose’s Kala Keltz to come out on target from behind the 3-point line.
“But she did,” Provenza said.
In fact, Keltz, who finished with 19 points, hit her first three 3-pointers. All came in the first half. She finished 3 of 5 from behind the 3-point arc.
Grand Junction also secured play down low. Credit Tori Catlett, who had 12 points, and Sarah Wilkinson for slowing Montrose’s Lara Ammermann (four points). The Tigers’ post players combined for five blocks in the fourth quarter.
And give Provenza a hand for leaving Brandon in the game when she picked up her fourth foul with 6 minutes left in the game.
And Brandon showcased energy that didn’t fade. She scored eight of her 12 points in the final quarter.
One minute after her fourth foul, Brandon dribbled to the basket, hung in the air for a moment and hit a short jumper off the glass that pulled the Tigers to within 34-33.
On Brandon’s basket that gave the Tigers their first lead and left her clapping on the floor, Bri Baldwin simply made a correct read.
During a Montrose box-and-one defense in which one defender clung to Brandon, Baldwin noticed the defender did not look for a pass. So, with a minute remaining and the game tied at 36-36, Brandon jogged to the 3-point line, then cut sharply to the basket.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” Baldwin said. “No one was looking for the pass at all. And I knew she’d go back door.”
Baldwin hit Brandon with a perfect bounce pass, and Brandon’s layup gave the Tigers the lead for good.
Brandon this week was no longer sick from a cold that stayed around for weeks.
“She has that kind of energy where I can keep her in,” Provenza said. “She’s a pretty hyper person anyway. So, her energy level is there when everyone else’s has started to drop.”