Epic comeback falls short for Tigers in tough loss

Grand Junction High School’s D.J. Wells rises above Lewis Palmer defender of Dylan Tucker, left, and Jordan Scott Saturday to take a shot at the Warrior Challenge basketball tournament at Central High School. The Tigers lost the game 55-53.

Dutch Johnson would have liked to see what his Grand Junction High School boys basketball team could have done against Lewis-Palmer in overtime.

Instead, he was left to pat the Tigers on the back Saturday afternoon.

Grand Junction staged a wild, improbable comeback in what essentially was the title game of the Warrior Challenge on Saturday at Central, scoring eight points in the final minute to erase a 17-point deficit and tie the game.

Broderick Robinson drove the length of the court and hit a layup with one second remaining to make it 53-53. Just about everyone in the gym was thinking “overtime.”

Then, a whistle blew as the final horn sounded. Lewis-Palmer, the top-ranked team in Class 4A, had inbounded the ball into the far corner, and the Tigers converged.

One official came out, and after a quick conference, called a foul on Grand Junction point guard Greg Eccher. Another conference, and eight-tenths of a second was put on the clock.

Lewis-Palmer’s Jordan Scott headed to the free-throw line. With the Grand Junction fans booing loudly at the officials’ call, Scott made both, and the Tigers’ desperation heave from three-quarters court missed, giving the Rangers a 55-53 victory and leaving Johnson to wonder what if.

“It’s frustrating,” Johnson said. “Three weeks, you don’t have a lot of time to work on late-game situations. To be thrown into that late-game situation I thought we did a good job doing what we had to do to chip away and get back in it.

“We should be in overtime right now.”

Zach Kiel forced a turnover on the sideline with 1:17 to play and on the other end hit a driving layup to cut the lead to 50-47.

Johnson immediately called time and the Tigers set up their press. Two more fouls got the Rangers in the bonus, and Tyler Owens made two free throws with 54.3 seconds left for a 52-47 Lewis-Palmer lead.

Robinson, though, shook a defender and gave himself enough room to bury a 3 from the top of the key with 41.3 seconds left, pulling the Tigers within two, 52-50, and Johnson again called time.

The Tigers’ junior guard timed his jump on the ensuing inbounds pass right, tipping the ball to Eccher, who got it back to Robinson, who drove the baseline. Scott was called for a hand-check, and Robinson made the first free throw, but was short on the second.

Down one, Johnson again called for a quick steal or foul, but instead of fouling on the perimeter, the Tigers let too much time run and Henry Carmichael shoved Kai Wade out of bounds as he was shooting.

It missed, as did both of Wade’s free throws, but the intentional foul gave the Rangers the ball under their own basket.

Kiel quickly fouled Scott, who made the first of the one-and-one, and D.J. Wells latched onto the rebound, leading to Robinson’s tying layup.

Grand Junction made some defensive adjustments at halftime, making sure players off the ball were packing the paint to help stop Lewis-Palmer’s dribble penetration.

Robinson finished with 19 points and Wells, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, had 13. Both made the all-tournament team, as did Lewis-Palmer’s Scott (24 points) and Justin Smith (13), who was the tournament’s MVP.


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