Depth helps GJ boys top Heritage in tournament

LITTLETON — For high school basketball teams, December is a time for learning.

Oh, after summer team camps and two weeks of preseason practice, they know the X’s and O’s. The schedule prior to the start of league play is about learning when to step on the gas pedal and which combination of players works best in certain situations.

Grand Junction boys basketball coach Dutch Johnson learned a little more about his team Friday in its 73-65 victory over the co-host Heritage squad in the Tip-Off Classic.

“I think we’ve got depth,” said Johnson, who went liberally to his bench in helping his team break a two-game losing streak, including a loss to fifth-ranked Cherokee Trail in Wednesday’s tournament opener.

Actually, according to Johnson, a different player or two has come off the bench to spark the Tigers in each of their five games thus far. On Friday, it was Kason Clutter and Lieson Crow.

“Some guys who got in took advantage,” Johnson said.

Clutter hit three shots, including a 3-pointer, en route to chipping in 10 points. Crow added 11 points.

The Tigers’ defense set the tone with 12 forced turnovers to allow Grand Junction to open a 17-point lead late in the second quarter before the Eagles cut their halftime deficit to 35-22.

That lead grew to 20 points in the third quarter. Then Heritage’s press and outside game woke up. The Eagles finally got a hot hand from Eli Ziegler, who scored 10 points in the opening four minutes of the fourth quarter. Although the Tigers’ 23-of-37 effort from the free-throw line wasn’t sterling, it was enough to keep Heritage at arm’s length.

Johnson did see some bright points.

“When we don’t turn the ball over we play pretty well together,” he said.

Broderick Robinson led the Tigers with 22 points, including a quartet of 3-pointers, and he added six rebounds. Zach Kiel chipped in with 12 points.

Grand Junction concludes tournament play today against former Fruita Monument standout Jon Rakiecki’s Rocky Mountain team in the consolation final.

Fruita Monument 79, Montezuma-Cortez 46: The Wildcats outscored the Panthers 25-4 in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win in the second day of the Steamboat Springs Tournament. Fruita Monument’s Spencer Fair scored 18 points, Matt Story netted 13, and Dylan Row added 10 points, including two 3-pointers.

Cheyenne East 61, Central 53: Preston Grandbouche drilled six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points for Central, which led by five points at the half. Cheyenne East, however, outscored the Warriors 24-4 in the third quarter to take control of the game. Trey Fair added 11 points for Central.


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