Back at it

Meister returns from injury, lifts Tigers

Grand Junction’s Elisha Jahnke moves the ball up the floor on a breakaway during Friday’s game at Fruita Monument. Jahnke and the Tigers won, 41-35.

She ran loops to get open on offense on Friday, sprinted around on defense, and the brace on her left knee was a clue of a story 1 year old.

Last year on Feb. 2, Grand Junction High School’s Erika Meister was undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.

This year, on Friday, one day before the anniversary of the surgery needed because of the injury sustained at the beginning of her basketball season, Meister filled in for teammates who were sick and sucking wind to help anchor Grand Junction to a 41-35 Southwestern League win at Fruita Monument.

Meister had nine points and played hawking defense on Fruita’s guards.

“It’ll be a good anniversary,” Meister said.

Grand Junction (14-2, 4-1 SWL) stayed one game behind Montrose (12-2, 5-0) in the league standings.

Fruita Monument (12-6, 3-2) was led by Lauren LaBonde’s 13 points.

Late in the third quarter, Grand Junction guard Elisha Jahnke hit two 3-pointers. The second came with 1:54 remaining in the quarter and put Grand Junction ahead 28-24.

Grand Junction coaches saw it coming. Throughout the week’s practices, Jahnke was hot from behind the line, they said. Fortunately for the Tigers, that carried over into the game and gave the Tigers a lead they didn’t give up.

Often, at least two Fruita guards would trap a Tigers guard at the top of the key, usually Bri Baldwin or Sydni Brandon. Jahnke, on her made 3-pointers, would simply wait behind the 3-point line and hope the pass would come.

“It’s nice,” Jahnke said, “just to feel so open and be able to take your time on a shot.”

Brandon, who has asthma, also had been fighting a cold for the past few weeks. She missed one day of practice this week. She still scored 11 points.

Baldwin also missed a practice. Guard Kylie Burns missed two.

Meister had missed a whole year already. On Friday, she made amends.

“We grew up a little bit tonight,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said, “especially in this great environment. It’s hot, it’s loud, but the kids stayed composed and blocked it all out.”

Late in the fourth quarter, Grand Junction was able to get inside baskets to put the game away. The Tigers’ Shafer Rubalcaba had one layup off an entry pass from Jahnke.

Freshman Tori Catlett later went to the foul line and hit a pair of free throws to put Grand Junction up 34-26.

Provenza said the Tigers were able to get back on defense and prevent Fruita Monument, and particularly LaBonde, from getting too many fast-break layups.

That meant Meister making plays such as reacting on defense and getting to an unguarded player. And Meister also was able to sit back and watch Jahnke put the game away.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Meister said of Jahnke’s 3-pointers. “She has the confidence to make that shot any time.”


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