Double the fun
Tigers rally late to defeat Wildcats in double OT
In what is arguably the Grand Valley’s most storied boys basketball rivalry, this was one for the ages.
Grand Junction erased a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter, using intense defensive pressure to tie the game late, and battled through two overtimes to defeat Fruita Monument 72-68 in a key Southwestern League game at Grand Junction High School.
The first three quarters of regulation were rough for the Tigers (12-8, 5-1 SWL), as they struggled from the field and at the free-throw line. The Wildcats (10-13, 3-5), keyed by strong defense and a scoring surge from Gunner Rigsby, opened the game on a 6-0 run that continued to a 30-23 lead at halftime.
Rigsby had a one-handed dunk and Trey Morrill added two more slams as Fruita feasted on turnovers from the top of its 1-3-1 zone.
But in the fourth quarter, the Tigers found their feet.
“I thought we didn’t do a good job attacking their zone,” Grand Junction coach Isaac Madison said. “We didn’t cut hard, didn’t get to the open spots and we couldn’t get the ball inside. And we had guys that were open and cutting. Preston Deters was unguarded most of the night and we couldn’t get him the ball because our perimeter guys couldn’t look up.
“But, when they did in the fourth quarter, they made shots and it opened things up for our shooters and (Fruita) had to foul and that kept us in the game. Our pressure at the end was huge, too. At the end of the fourth quarter to force overtime.”
Trevor Olkowski started the run, hitting a fadeaway jumper as the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter with the Tigers trailing 48-37. He hit a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter and, after a series of 3s from Drew Derrieux, the Tigers trailed only 56-52 with 1:19 remaining. Derrieux added two points from the line with 53 seconds left, then Grand Junction stole the inbounds pass. Deters fed Derek Shaver for a layup to tie it 56-56.
Rigsby plowed into the lane with 5.6 seconds to go and drew a shooting foul, but the first shot rimmed out and the second came up short. The Tigers’ final heave was well wide and the game went to its first overtime.
Sophomore Reilly Flinn scored Fruita’s only points of the first overtime, nailing a 3 on the wing early in the period. After two minutes of back-and-forth basketball, Olkowski responded with a tying 3-pointer with 30 seconds left to knot it 59-59 and send the game to a second overtime.
Olkowski, who Madison said had been struggling with his jumper lately, was just happy to help the team.
“It’s cool,” Olkowski said. “I had confidence in myself and I try to be a leader on the team every night and try to bring the energy. Missed free throws, man, I was struggling from the line, but I stuck to it and the shots started to fall.
“I feel really confident in our team and our ability. We show a lot of heart, especially when we’re down. Resilience, that’s what our team is about. We’re not the biggest team, but we fight ‘til the end. That wins close games.”
Olkowski opened the second overtime with a hook shot and a 3-pointer to push Grand Junction’s lead to 64-59. The Tigers kept that advantage by making free throws, leading by at least four points the rest of the way.
Fruita Monument was led by Morrill with 20 points and Rigsby had 19. Jake Brizzolara, Fruita’s second-leading scorer, missed the game, but will return for any playoff games the Wildcats might play in.
Derrieux led Grand Junction with 24 points, Andrew Hansen had 16, Derek Shaver added 15 points and Olkowski had 12. Derrieux pointed out that in three of the Tigers’ past five games, they’ve had to battle a second-half deficit. They came back to win against Central and fell in Durango, but Derrieux said they dug deep for Fruita Monument.
“Saturday in Durango, we just fell apart,” Derrieux said. “At halftime Madison told us that its gut-check time, that its time for us to show our colors and show who we really are. I think, especially in the fourth quarter, we responded really well to the pressure and that’s a big win for us.”