Full load of rivalry games tip off today

Southwestern League basketball teams should learn a lot about themselves this week, starting tonight.

Grand Junction plays at Central tonight (the girls game begins at 5:30 p.m., the boys at 7 p.m.) to tip off a pivotal week of games. For the Tigers, it’s rivalry week, playing at Fruita Monument on Friday night.

Central has its second test of the week Friday at Montrose.

Both girls teams have something to prove tonight after splitting the season series last season.

The Warriors (9-6, 3-0 SWL) are still led by junior Amy Kame, but first-year coach Todd Dixon has Central running toward a second league title after winning each of its first three SWL games by more than 20 points.

The Tigers (6-8, 2-1 SWL) are young but gaining confidence as the season progresses and are trying to bounce back from a loss against Montrose last week.

Backcourt play could hold the key to tonight’s girls game.

How will Grand Junction handle Central’s pressure defense? Do the Tigers have a way to contain Kame and the rest of the Warriors from scoring more than 60 points?

If the Tigers are to handle the Warriors’ pressure, freshman guard Jamie Derrieux will have to continue to play poised. She also will need help from Liz Heaps, Paula Lage, Fawn Brady and Stephanie Drake. The Tigers are quick enough to beat Central’s press, but the key will be avoiding turnovers that feed Central’s offense.

Kame has been a steady scorer for the Warriors, but the supporting cast is crucial to Central’s success. When the score sheet is balanced with contributions from players such as
Karen Hayter and Stacy Kinnett, the Warriors are tough to beat.

To win, the Warriors will have to try to take a page from the Tigers’ loss to Montrose and get up on Grand Junction early. If the Warriors do that they have a good chance to win, but if Grand Junction is able to hang around, the Tigers have found a knack for pulling out close games at the end.

On the boys side, both teams are jockeying for first place. The Warriors (12-3, 2-1 SWL) lost at Montezuma-Cortez but bounced back the next night against Durango. Central will be trying to keep the Tigers (9-5, 3-0 SWL) from extending their lead on the rest of the SWL, and the game could come down to which team controls the tempo and which big-name players have big games.

The Tigers’ Everett Robinson has been unstoppable all season. The 6-foot-4 senior is just as dangerous from outside the arc as he is attacking the basket. Robinson has averaged 25.5 points per game the past four games. The Tigers’ other threat is post man Geoff Baldwin. A dynamic offensive player, Baldwin does a lot of his work on the offensive boards and has a soft touch around the rim. Baldwin does have the tendency to get into foul trouble, though, which the Warriors’ big men could exploit.

Central has its most success on the run. Clay Kame and Blaine Jackson push the ball and
the Warriors thrive when those two can slice into the paint.

Their ability to penetrate the lane has allowed Michael Wiedrich to have a big season behind the arc when the defense collapses. The Warriors have tough post players in Kahler Grandbouche, Travis Key, Griffin Woolsey and Josh Wells, who should be able to match up with the Tigers’ Baldwin, Matt Wilkinson and Jesse Smith.

The “X” factor in the boys game could be the role players.

The Warriors look to Sean Citlau for a spark off of the bench. He missed last weekend’s games with an illness and it showed in the Warriors’ split on the road.

Grand Junction guards Tyler Winder and Justin Trujillo have played important roles in being able to slow down the pace of the game and create plays for Robinson, Baldwin and Tommy Powers.


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