Led by Brandon's effort on both ends, Tigers run past Warriors
Although Tori Catlett and Sarah Wilkinson pounded Central with the high-low post game Tuesday night, it was Sydni Brandon who sparked the Grand Junction girls basketball team’s offense.
Brandon scored 18 points and notched seven steals as the Tigers cruised to a 57-35 Southwestern League win.
Grand Junction’s full-court press and ability to zip through passing lanes was too much for Central to handle. In the first half, the Warriors (5-18, 2-8 SWL) turned the ball over 17 times and struggled to generate offense.
Brandon pushed the Tigers (20-2, 8-1 SWL) to a 20-7 lead in the first quarter, scoring nine points before sitting in the second quarter with foul trouble. Showcasing her ability to get into the lane throughout the game, Brandon finished 12 of 13 from the free-throw line and didn’t attempt a 3-pointer.
Brandon said a more disciplined defensive effort set up quality offensive possessions.
“Our defense, in the last few games, had been allowing people more easy baskets than we should have,” Brandon said. “Our defense had just been so slow. But I feel like the last game or two, this game and the previous one, we’ve stopped people from scoring. Getting back on defense has been big for us. Sometimes we attack the ball when we shouldn’t, and then we get lost and people score easy layups off that. But this game we got back on pretty much every possession, and they didn’t get any easy looks.”
Coach Sam Provenza said good transition defense has led to good transition offense, and stopping fast-break chances has kept them out of foul trouble.
Offensively, Catlett and Wilkinson have found a groove working high-low post offense. Catlett finished with 16 points. Wilkinson scored eight points and dished out five assists.
The duo has had room to operate largely because Shafer Rubalcaba, also a strong post player, has fit well on the perimeter.
Rubalcaba finished with eight points and has stretched defenses with a deceptively quick jump shot. Her ability to defend smaller players on the perimeter keeps the Tiger’s defense solid.
Provenza said having three post players able to play together, as well as Rubalcaba’s development, has added another dimension to Grand Junction’s offense.
“Shafer’s looked really good because she’s been shooting the ball so well on the perimeter,” Provenza said. “I’ve been watching her shooting getting better for four years, and it’s really a confidence thing, too. Her form is so much better than it was when she was a little kid, and she’s got a lot of confidence shooting the ball right now.
“That gives Tori and Sarah a chance to work together, and Sarah is doing such a terrific job up in that high post. She’s been making great entries, and Tori is taking advantage of it. (Tori is) finishing her shots down there.”