Different approach: Switching defenses helps GJ girls top Cortez
The Grand Junction High School girls basketball team didn’t want history to repeat itself.
The Tigers suffered a 66-59 home loss to Montezuma-Cortez late last season because of the sharp shooting of the Panthers’ Kelia and Keely Yanito.
Friday night at Grand Junction High School, the Tigers (9-6, 2-0 Southwestern League) made sure it didn’t happen again, employing a tight man-to-man defense and holding the Yanitos to 10 points apiece in the Tigers’ 63-43 victory.
“They killed us last year right there,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said, pointing to the visitor’s end of the Grand Junction High School gym. “They buried us big time, so we said we have to disrupt their offense by playing strong, good defense.”
The Tigers have played a zone defense all season, but switched the game plan to better match up with the Panthers.
In the first half, the Tigers limited the Panthers (3-6, 1-2 SWL) to eight points in each quarter to hold a 21-16 halftime lead.
“We’ve been working on different aspects of man-to-man all year, but this was the first time we used it,” Provenza said. “We felt if we made them put it on the floor, it would give us an advantage.”
Offensively, the Tigers relied on their top two scorers in the first quarter as Paula Lage and Fawn Brady scored nine of the Tigers’ 11 first-quarter points.
Lage got into foul trouble in the second quarter and Brady took over. The Tigers’ junior forward had six second-quarter points.
“We worked the ball well tonight,” Brady said. “We played good, hard basketball.”
The Panthers made a charge in the third quarter, tying the game at 23-23 on a Keely Yanito 3-pointer with 5:40 remaining.
Brady and Lage scored back-to-back buckets to put the Tigers ahead, and Jeslyn Szabo capped a 12-1 quarter-ending run with a layup before the buzzer.
“We had some kids play great off the bench,” Provenza said. “Jeslyn played great, Camille (Goodsell) got a couple of fast break points, so they did what we needed.” Lage put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter with nine of her game-high 20 points.
“(Paula) is such a presence that now you have two kids that can handle the ball, and shoot from the outside,” Provenza said. “The defense has to decide who they want to guard.
“Do they guard Fawn or Paula, because they can’t guard them both.”
Brady finished with 12 points and 10 assists.
“I wouldn’t have those assists without my teammates,” Brady said. “They are doing all the work, and getting to the basket.”
Brady added she was happy with the defensive effort, holding Cortez to only two 3-pointers.
“We didn’t give up that many 3-pointers,” Brady said. “We knew that was how they’ve scored in the past so we had to get up defensively.”
Grand Junction faces another challenge today against Durango.
“It’s another league win,” Provenza said. “We feel good about where we are, and we feel good about where we are going.”