Forcing turnovers lifts Grand Junction girls past Cortez

It’s coming together.

The youth and inexperience that plagued the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team in December is making way for more cohesive play as the Tigers embark on the Southwestern League season.

Grand Junction’s defensive pressure took its toll on Montezuma-Cortez on Friday as the Tigers (6-7) opened the SWL season with a 42-31 victory.

“They’re playing with a lot more confidence, a lot more intensity,” Tigers coach Sam Provenza said.

Most of that intensity showed on the defense end as the Tigers forced 30 Panthers turnovers and allowed Cortez to shoot only 38 percent.

“(Provenza) was telling us, ‘You guys are killing each others’ butts in practice (and) I love it,’ ”
Tigers senior guard Liz Heaps said.

Heaps made her presence felt primarily on the defensive end with four steals.

Fortunately for Grand Junction, its defense was solid because the Tigers had their own troubles at the offensive end.

“I don’t think we ever got relaxed enough to get in a flow,” Provenza said of his team’s 15-of-48 shooting.

Provena installed a new offense after the winter break.

Heaps thinks it will pay some dividends down the road.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “We’re constantly moving. Before we were standing around. We have a set spot (now) but we can improvise.”

The Tigers worked the ball inside well to Paula Lage (eight points), Emily Dohm (seven) and Lisa Hughes (four). Jamie Derrieux opened up the inside by slashing to the basket for a team-high 11 points and Fawn Brady’s 10 points on jumpers in the paint also took the pressure off the post players.

After pulling down a team-high eight rebounds, Brady spent the final 41/2 minutes on the bench after turning an ankle.

Kelia Yanito’s 12 points for Cortez led all scorers; she matched Brady’s rebound output with eight.

After going with a short rotation last season, Provenza is comfortable going four-deep off his bench.

“There’s not a lot of separation,” he said from the starting team to the reserves.

Cassidie Mims and Stephanie Drake were major factors in the Panthers’ turnover numbers with their quickness and full-court pressure.

Provenza knew the learning curve would be steep for his young team this season.

“We didn’t know if we could make that big a jump that soon,” he said.

After three consecutive victories, that learning curve has flattened a bit.

The Tigers continue their weekend homestand today at noon against Durango.


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