Freshman Brandon shows her skill in GJ win
If she hadn’t already, Sydni Brandon cemented her role as a leader with the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team Wednesday night.
Brandon was critical in the Tigers’ 43-32 win over Moffat County, scoring eight points, with seven assists and five steals, and she played all but 30 seconds of the game.
She’s got one speed — fast.
Her defense is stifling and she plays every play with the true understanding that every play, in fact, does count.
She’s a coach’s dream player.
And she’s only a freshman.
“Sydni was a fifth-grader at Tope (Elementary) when I was teaching there,” Tigers’ coach Sam Provenza said. “I’ve seen her coming for a long time and holy smoke, does that kid play hard.”
Midway through the third quarter, Brandon took over the momentum of the game when senior Jamie Derrieux left after hitting her head on a wall chasing a loose ball out of bounds. Brandon had three steals and two assists during that time. It was, however, her breakup of a two-on-one Moffat County fast break with a nifty deflection that led to a layup for the Tigers that proved how vital her defense is.
“You’ve just got to be on top of your game all the time,” Brandon said. “I do focus mainly on my defense. You’ve got to always get the ball back if you want to win the game.”
Provenza said that one play “is just the type of player she is.”
“She’s always hustling and never quits,” he said. “She’s a very smart player.”
Years in the gym have certainly paid off for Brandon.
“She’s a gym rat,” Provenza said. “She plays summer ball with any team she can find. She just wants to always play and it shows. She is very dedicated to the game and she loves to play.”
Brandon’s game isn’t just relegated to defense. Her offense is equally dangerous. In the Tigers’ previous five games, Brandon had scored 56 points.
“The girl can shoot,” Provenza said. “She’s a very good shooter, but she’s always looking to get somebody the ball. You love that in a kid. You can teach them to shoot the ball, but you can’t teach them to not shoot as much sometimes, but she always wants to get the ball to the next person.”
The way she plays and often controls the game, you would never guess Brandon is just a freshman.
“I just try to do my best and always play hard,” she said. “We have a great team and we all help each other and we all stick together and it showed tonight. This was a game we really needed to win, and we did.”
Derrieux was in a similar position when she was a freshman and can relate to the nerve factor of playing varsity as a freshman.
“She’s playing great,” Derrieux said. “She came from eighth grade last year and has grown up so much in the (14) games we’ve played this year. I know how she feels coming from eighth grade playing against 17- and 18-year-olds. We’ve all done a great job of supporting each other and she is such a contribution to the team that she is really stepping up into a leadership role. People really respect how hard she plays and are looking up to her as a freshman.”
Brandon sparked the Tigers (10-4) in the third quarter and Derrieux returned in the fourth to do the same, scoring six consecutive points and had two steals to help the Tigers pad a nine-point lead over Moffat County (7-5).
“We needed to have a good win tonight to get ready for league play,” Provenza said. “(Moffat County) is a very tough basketball team and that’s good for us because we need to know how to play against a tough and physical team.”