Free-throw shooting lifts Tigers past Montrose

It was a situation Tyler Winder had been in before.

The pressure’s on and he needs to make free throws to clinch a tight game.

Only this time it wasn’t in the driveway with teammate Mark Stern, but in front of a packed gymnasium in Montrose.

With less than one minute remaining, Winder made three of four free throw attempts to give Grand Junction (10-4, 3-0 Southwestern League) a 57-51 win.

“I didn’t think about the situation,” Winder said about shooting in front of a rowdy Indians crowd. “I just pictured myself in the driveway shooting with Mark.”

Winder’s free throws came in handy as the Tigers led 51-45 with one minute remaining. Montrose found its deep shot and cut Grand Junction’s lead to 51-48 with a Niko Youngren 3-pointer.

Winder pushed the Tigers’ lead back to 54-48 before Jonathan Sierra hit a 3-pointer to make it 54-51 with 24 seconds remaining. This time Winder made one free throw to give Grand Junction enough cushion to hold on for the win.

“We are a 62 percent free throw shooting team, so for us to close the game that way was huge,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “We had to go two for two at the line every time because they were making threes.”

Although it might have been free-throw shooting down the stretch, a defensive switch by Montrose helped Grand Junction take over the momentum after trailing 34-35 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Indians were playing a zone defense for a majority of the game before switching to man-to-man in the fourth.

Looking to exploit mismatches, the Tigers attacked the basket.

“We knew that if we got them into man we could get by them,” Winder said.

The defensive switch was puzzling because Montose had its two post players, Nate Robertson and Brian Davidson in foul trouble.

“They were trying to guard without fouling so we were able to get into the lane,” Johnson said. “When they went man, we did a good job of attacking.”

Jesse Smith led Grand Junction with 16, points including eight in the fourth quarter. Montrose was led by Youngren, who had a game-high 28 points.

The win puts Grand Junction in a good position, starting 3-0 in the SWL with three wins coming at Montezuma-Cortez, Durango and Montrose.

“With how tough a trip Cortez and Durango is, and how tough a team Montrose is, this is big” Johnson said. “But we have to know that they’ll remember these games.”


A combination of an off-shooting night and stout Montrose defense resulted in the Tigers’ second straight league loss.

“Plain and simple, we didn’t hit baskets in the first half,” Tigers coach Sam Provenza said. “We had great execution, but we didn’t believe we could make a basket when we shot it.”

Grand Junction (8-6, 1-2 SWL) had offensive lulls in both the first and second quarters and trailed 26-14 at halftime.

In the second half it was more of the same, as Montrose pushed its lead to 37-20 early in the third quarter led by post player Hanna Bowden.

Grand Junction made a push in the fourth quarter with aggressive defense to cut the lead to 46-38.

“Anytime you get in a visitors gym in the Southwestern League, you can’t play from behind,” Provenza said. “We just didn’t get it done in the first half.”

The Tigers had strong efforts from Fawn Brady and Paula Lage. Brady found her rhythm in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of her 16 points. Lage led the Tigers with 18 points.


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