Brandon leads GJ past Palisade

The pesky Palisade High School girls basketball team just wouldn’t go away Saturday.

When Aspen Guray hit a shot, Grand Junction’s lead was down to 29-23.

That’s when Sydni Brandon took over.

The Grand Junction junior scored the Tigers’ final 14 points in a 43-32 win at the Palisade Sunrise Rotary Club Tournament.

Brandon — who had been working away from the ball for much of the game — hit a driving layup, then an off-balanced left-hander in the lane to put the Tigers up 33-23. After another basket, she added eight free throws down the stretch to secure the win, finishing with a game-high 22 points.

It wasn’t a smooth shooting day for Brandon, though. She missed nine shots in the first half, including a number of close ones that rimmed out.

“I don’t let it get into my head,” she said. “I just worked to calm down.”

Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza put it pretty simply when describing Brandon’s fourth-quarter performance.

“She really wanted the ball in her hands,” he said.

Brandon smiled and agreed. “I like having the ball in my hands. I wanted to finish.”

Guray worked to keep Palisade in the game with eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter.

Grand Junction (9-0) had been coasting along with a comfortable lead in a ragged and physical second half. Ashlyn Brown then hit two baseline jumpers in the fourth and connected on a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 37-30 with 1:16 remaining.

Provenza was worried about the game coming in since it was a late addition to the Tigers’ schedule.

“With these types of physical games, there just isn’t a lot of flow,” he said.

The Tigers started slowly and saw Palisade take an 8-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. The second was a different story and the Tigers dominated. Tori Catlett hit a pretty turnaround jumper in the lane to start a 12-0 run and Grand Junction’s defensive intensity picked up. The Bulldogs only scored two points in the quarter. Brandon and Melissa Atchley hit 3-pointers in the stretch to push the Tigers’ lead at the half to 20-10.

Sarah Wilkinson scored five points in the third quarter and finished with seven points for Grand Junction.

Palisade (6-1) was originally scheduled to play Cortez when the tournament was first set up. But the Panthers were unable to field a girls team for the weekend and the Tigers had an open date on their schedule.


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