Defensive Drake: Senior’s ability to shut down foes a key for Grand Junction

Stephanie Drake isn’t going to score a ton of points for Grand Junction, but her ability to be a shut-down defender helps the Tigers.

Stephanie Drake creates havoc for the opposing team.

The senior three-year starter may be only 5-foot-5, but she excels on the defensive end for the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team.

“We give her a lot of leeway defensively,” Tigers coach Sam Provenza said. “She can move a point guard to the corner if she wants, or if she gets it in her mind she wants to take the ball from them, she goes and does it.”

Drake and the No. 3 seeded Tigers (16-7) host sixth-seed Loveland (17-6) tonight at 7 p.m. in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.

“I’m glad we’ve pushed this far,” Drake said. “We just have to play with each other and play with heart and we can do it.”

Drake is the first line of defense for the Tigers, playing at the top of the key disrupting the opponents’ offensive flow. The evidence is her 61 steals this season.

“She won’t come off the floor until we pull her off the floor,” Provenza said. “She’ll go hard the entire time.”

Drake worked her way into a starting position on the basketball court as a sophomore because of her athleticism, and blazing speed.

“You see her footwork and speed right away,” Provenza said. “She’s such a good athlete that we kind of throw out the basketball book.”

Drake is a part of the current group of Tigers players who earned their stripes as underclassmen. She said playing as a sophomore helped her mature as a player.

“You had to play to the upperclassmen’s expectations,” Drake said. “Now that I’m an older player, I have to set a good example.”

Drake’s confidence has risen in her three years with the Tigers. Previously, her speed put her out in front of many fast breaks, but she had trouble finishing the play.

“I used to miss layups left and right, and gave a lot of assists off the backboard,” Drake said. “I have more faith that I can finish now.”

Drake averages five points per game, but has scored in every game. She shoots 81 percent from the free-throw line.

Provenza said he can see how far she’s come offensively.

“She would never shoot the ball before,” Provenza said. “Now she’ll hit a jump shot from 10-12 feet. She understands she’s not going out to the 3 and launching one up. She gets to where she’s comfortable.”

The Tigers are taking on a Loveland team tonight that dominated Cherokee Trail 63-28 in the first round.

“We have to control tempo,” Provenza said. “If we can keep it at our pace, that’ll be really important.”

No. 7 Fruita Monument (15-9) at No. 2 Fairview (15-8), today, 7 p.m.

The Wildcats are no strangers to Fairview High School.

Fruita Monument has played games in the Knights’ gym the past three seasons, including a 55-44 loss in the second game of the 2010 season.

“We’ve played them the last three years and they always have a lot of seniors,” Fruita Monument coach Dan Schmalz said. “They press a ton, and they’ll press from the get-go so we’ll have to be ready.”

The Wildcats should be much more prepared for this game than they were for their second round game last season. Fruita Monument lost 64-20 to No. 1 seed Highlands Ranch in last year’s second round.

“Last year we were done before the game started,” Schmalz said. “Now the girls have been through this before and we’ll be much more prepared for this one.”

Fairview is led by senior Carlee Lough, who averages 12.5 points per game.


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