Big shift in momentum

GJ girls get on track, hold off Pueblo West

Grand Junction’s Sydni Brandon goes up for a shot during the first half of Friday’s game against Pueblo West at Grand Junction High School in the Tigers’ 48-42 victory.

The lead was more elusive than a runaway Super Ball for the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team.

After 11 missed shots and only six points in the first seven minutes and 20 seconds of the third quarter Friday night, the Tigers hit two baskets in about three seconds to finally take a 35-33 lead over Pueblo West. Grand Junction held the momentum for the rest of the game and earned a tough 48-42 nonleague victory.

Grand Junction (10-0) struggled against a good Pueblo West team throughout most of the first three quarters. The Cyclones (6-2) are ranked sixth in Class 4A, and Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza was happy for the matchup.

“That’s a very good team. We’re glad to play teams like that,” he said.

As usual, junior guard Sydni Brandon was in the middle of the action for the Tigers, who trailed by as many as seven points in the second quarter. Brandon hit a drive to cut the lead to 26-22. Then, Madi Marsh grabbed a rebound and passed to Brandon, who knifed between a pair of defenders with a quick crossover dribble and swished a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it a 26-25 game.

The Tigers tied the score at 31-31 on a turnaround jumper by Shafer Rubalcaba with 2:30 left in the third.

A jumper by Gina Carochi gave the lead back to the Cyclones. With less than a minute to play in the third, Brandon zipped into the lane and dished off to Sarah Wilkinson for a basket. Then, before the Tiger faithful even could fully react to the tie score, Brandon darted into the passing lane for a steal and another bucket to give the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish.

The Tigers didn’t make it easy on themselves in the fourth quarter. Their aggressive play on both ends of the court led to a number of players going to the free-throw line, but they only hit four of 11 shots through half of the quarter.

Brandon hit a driving layup and Wilkinson a 14-footer to give the Tigers a 42-36 lead, but Haley Simental hit a long 3-pointer to keep the Cyclones in it.

Tori Catlett scored on a layup, then Elisha Jahnke swished a pair of free throws to put the Tigers up 47-39 with about a minute to play.

The Tigers finished the quarter seven of 15 from the line.

Jahnke, who had four points in the second half, said the Tigers wanted to be patient against the Cyclones’ zone defense.

“At halftime, our coaches told us to slow things down, and that’s what we did in the second half, and it worked,” she said.

Provenza said dictating the pace is always a key.

“We talked about tempo. We’re always better when we control the tempo,” he said.

The game was a matchup of two smooth shooting guards in Brandon and Simental, who lit up the scoreboard in the first half, scoring 16 of her 24 points.

The Cyclones used multiple players to try to defend Brandon, who was ultra-aggressive in the third quarter, drawing five fouls. She finished with 15 points in the game.

The Tigers upped the defensive pressure after halftime.

“That was the key. We really played good defense in the second half,” Provenza said.

Wilkinson added 10 points and Rubalcaba seven.


Central won four of the five duals it wrestled Friday in the Border War dual tournament in Rock Hill, S.C.

The Warriors defeated Lugoff-Elgin (S.C.) 53-24, Kenan (N.C.) 56-24, Monroe (S.C.) 59-21 and Northwestern (S.C.) 50-27.

Indian Land (S.C.) defeated Central 42-37.

Central’s Riley Garner-Orr (113 pounds), Kyle Martinez (132), Jacob Hayden (160) and Isaac Bair (170) each posted records of 5-0 in their matches. Brandon Chadd (126), Rowdy Allen (195) and Jordan Horsley (285) each went 4-1 for the Warriors.

“For the experience we have, it’s a great tournament,” Central coach Laurence Gurule said. “It’s a perfect trip to get away and depend on each other.”

Central wrestles four duals today in the Border War tournament.


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