Angels too much for Tigers
DENVER — The Sweet 16 has been anything but sweet for the Grand Junction boys basketball team.
For the second year in a row, the Tigers were matched against a buzzsaw in the third round of the Class 5A state playoffs. One year after giving Regis Jesuit and standout Josh Perkins a tough battle before falling, the Tigers found themselves in Denver on Wednesday night facing top-seeded Denver East and University of Colorado-bound guard Dominique Collier.
The Angels proved to have too many weapons to handle, breaking open a tight game late in the first half before pulling away for an eventual 65-47 victory at the Thunderdome at Manual High School.
Collier paced three Denver East players in double figures with a game-high 27 points to go along with four steals. Jevon Griffin added 18 points and Ronnie Harrell chipped in with 12 for the Angels (21-4), who will play Highlands Ranch in the Great 8.
“They’re just so hard to guard, and I thought we did a good job of guarding them actually,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “Where East is so dang good is as soon as you make a mistake, they capitalize on it.”
The tide turned against the Tigers (21-3) in the second quarter. A Trenton Soriano 3-pointer tied the game at 20-20, but Collier fueled a 12-2 run to close out the first half. The guard scored nine points during the run, and Grand Junction made one of seven shots from the field in that stretch.
Tigers senior Broderick Robinson, who led the team with 21 points, picked up his third foul and went to the bench with one minute, 57 seconds remaining, and East scored the final five points of the quarter.
“We knew coming in they were athletic, so we had to box out and rebound,” Robinson said. “The first half we didn’t do that well. We let them get second-chance points. I got three (fouls), and that really didn’t help. They just went on runs, and that’s where they hurt us.”
Robinson and junior D.J. Wells combined for 14 of the Tigers’ 17 points in the third quarter as Grand Junction trailed by 11 going into the fourth, but a 13-4 East run put the game away.
“We just ran out of steam in that fourth quarter, which I think a lot of teams do against them,” Johnson said. “A lot of teams have a game plan when you come in against Denver East. You know what you try to do, but what happens in the long run is athletes and great players weather the storm and eventually go on those runs and pull away.”
Robinson, who averaged more than 20 points per game this season, didn’t allow his foul trouble to limit his style of play in the second half.
“He proved he could play with the state’s best,” Johnson said. “He’s a special kid and he can do a lot of things. He’s done so much for this team ... he’s kept us in a lot of games this year. I think he proved he’s one of the elite guards in Colorado.”
Wells scored 10 points for Grand Junction, and Tyson Zanski and Soriano combined for 14. The Tigers will graduate three seniors in Robinson, Soriano and Greg Eccher.
“It’s been an amazing year for us,” Robinson said. “Great coaches and great players — I’ve been playing with them since fifth grade. It’s sad to see it end like this, but it was a great year.”