GJ girls survive test against Delta

MONTROSE — It’s hard to imagine any team bullying the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team. They’re not a tall team, but their undefeated season largely has been carried by physical defense.

But during Day 1 of the Black Canyon Basketball Classic on Thursday, the Tigers ended up on the floor via hard screens, rebounds and a few elbows. The physical play nearly sank Grand Junction’s winning streak, but the Tigers rallied for a 46-39 victory over Delta.

“To our kids’ credit they hung in there,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said. “Delta was obviously a test for us. At the end of the game, we were kind of asking ourselves how we won that game. I think we just kept our heads better, got to the free-throw line, and I think that affected the other team towards the end.”

Sydni Brandon sparked the rally at the end of the first half, taking the ball from halfcourt to the rim with four seconds left, sinking a contested layup as the buzzer sounded. She made another contested layup to give the Tigers (6-0) their first lead of the game with three minutes left. A basket by Elisha Jahnke and the accompanying free throw allowed the Tigers to pull away.

Brandon finished the game with 14 points, four steals, three blocks and two assists.

Earlier in the season, Provenza said, the Tigers were struggling to find a go-to player. Brandon appears to be settling into that role.

“Obviously we’d like her to be that player,” Provenza said. “Sometimes I’m not convinced she thinks she is. As a sophomore you’re going to have to deal with those confidence issues and growing pains. But she’s getting better every game.”

Delta (0-1) got into foul trouble early in both halves, and it caught up with the Panthers in the middle of the fourth quarter. Grand Junction made nine of 14 free throws after it entered the bonus with just more than five minutes left in the game.

“Toward the end they were fouling a lot, and everyone we made just chipped away from their lead and added to our confidence,” Jahnke said. “Free throws got us closer and closer until we finally got there.”

Callie Gafford led the Panthers in scoring with 17 points. Skylyn Webb added 12 points, but was held scoreless in the second half. The two combined to go 6 for 15 from the free-throw line, including 1 for 5 in the second half.


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