Defense helps ‘Dogs overcome GJ’s solid effort
In a matter of minutes Tuesday night, the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team opened a 9-2 lead on Palisade.
The game didn’t end with a Tigers’ victory, with Palisade eventually bouncing back for a 47-33 victory, but it was a big step for winless Grand Junction against one of the best teams on the Western Slope.
Tigers’ coach Sam Provenza said he saw more confident guard play and assertive shot selection.
“That’s probably the best half we’ve played all season long,” Provenza said. “They were confident, passed the ball well and believed in each other.”
Madi Schmalz and Kenzie Younker sparked the early scoring run. Schmalz scored all four of her points in the first quarter and Younker led the team with nine points.
It was the first game for the Tigers (0-9) since a tournament that included a 78-23 loss to Regis Jesuit where Raiders sophomore Fran Bellibi threw down the first documented slam dunk by a female high school athlete in Colorado.
The dunk was widely shared on social media and was featured on Sportcenter’s “Top 10 Plays” segment as the No. 1 play of the night.
Provenza said he didn’t think the dunk affected his team.
“Well, it counted for two points,” Provenza said. “It happened and it was famous, but the other 76 points we gave up didn’t help our cause, either.”
For the Bulldogs (11-1), Tuesday’s game was a chance to work on the offensive gameplan heading into the bulk of their Class 4A Western Slope League schedule.
After falling behind early, a series of steals, inside baskets and a 3-pointer from Christa Brown gave Palisade a 14-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Grand Junction didn’t go away after that. Late in the second quarter, after very little scoring from either team, Angela Paradiso swatted away a Palisade layup attempt then converted a layup at the other end to put the Tigers up 21-20.
Palisade took a 22-21 lead before the break and pulled away from there.
Brown led the Bulldogs with 24 points and five steals, and at times provided the team’s only offensive spark. But on defense, Palisade put together a team effort that coach Danielle Bagwell said will provide confidence moving forward.
“We had to make a few adjustments because Provenza was ready,” Bagwell said. “We struggled on offense and I thought we struggled on defense as well, at least in the first quarter. The girls kinda found a way in the second half.
“I’m not even sure how many steals and rebounds per game (Brown) is averaging right now, but she keeps finding ways to score out of her own defense. Defense is a team game, but Christa was huge for us tonight.”