GJ faces tough, quick foe in round 2
The Grand Junction High School boys basketball team is hoping its momentum hasn’t died off.
The Tigers enter the 5A state playoffs on a four-game winning streak, including two dominant wins at home over Central and Fruita Monument to close the regular season. The only problem is the 73-57 win over the Wildcats was eight days ago.
“It has been a while since we have gone all week without having a game in there,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “So we are just trying to stay fresh with what we do.”
Tonight the wait ends for the Tigers, who host Overland at 7 p.m.
“We are feeling good about ourselves,” the Tigers’ Matt Wilkinson said. “We are peaking at the right time and we think we have a good chance to win.”
Despite the layoff between games, Johnson said the Tigers have kept the wheels turning by having had a solid week of practice.
“These guys are getting after it and there is a lot of energy,” Johnson said. “I expected them to be a little sluggish, but it has been a great week.”
Overland will present a tough challenge for the Tigers. The Trailblazers come from the tough Continental League and finished third behind No. 4 seed Arapahoe and No. 1 seed Eaglecrest.
“Overland is real quick and athletic so we are going to have to do a good job on the defensive end not giving them dribble penetration,” Johnson said.
The Tigers have done their prep work by testing themselves against teams of similar styles throughout the season. The Tigers played Fountain-Fort Carson, Chatfield and Thomas Jefferson in non-league play. The only downside of those games was the Tigers lost all three.
“We have played some pretty good teams that are quick,” Johnson said. “While we didn’t win any of those games, it should be a good preparation.”
As talented as Overland may be, the Tigers are the higher seed for a reason. Grand Junction began the season slow but caught fire down the stretch and won the Southwestern League with a 9-1 record. For Johnson, having won the SWL made the difference in the Tigers earning a high seed.
The Tigers are led by Geoff Baldwin and Everett Robinson, who average 16 points per game apiece and both have the athleticism to create matchup problems for other teams.
The Tigers also have a solid group of role players ranging from point guard Justin Trujillo to 3-point aces Tommy Powers and Mark Stern.
“It has been a long wait,” Wilkinson said. “But we have been practicing hard all week and we are ready.”