GJ responds to coach’s criticism
Everything looked easy in the beginning Saturday when Grand Junction led 16-2, and it looked easy at the end when the final score favored the Tigers 65-42.
But at one point in between, Grand Junction boys basketball coach Dutch Johnson needed to send a message to his players about complacency and laziness. The Tigers (13-2, 4-0 Southwestern League) got away with letting up against undermanned Montezuma-Cortez, but their coach knows repeat performances may not be as easy to overcome.
Grand Junction’s 16-2 lead with 3 minutes, 53 seconds left in the first quarter dwindled to 16-11 with 1:25 left in the frame.
“We started out pressing them and built a lead, and then I think the kids looked at the scoreboard,” Johnson said. “I think they thought since we had the lead, we could back off. It didn’t work.”
Johnson had seen enough midway through the second quarter after the Panthers (5-8, 1-3) scored two easy buckets to close within 23-15. During the next opportunity to substitute, he put five new bodies on the floor.
“We wanted to play a lot of guys today, but for a different reason,” Johnson said. “We didn’t want to pull people for being lazy. We subbed five at a time because the group that was out there gave up two layups.”
Grand Junction’s starters sat for about two minutes, then returned to the floor with about two minutes remaining in the half.
The Tigers led 29-20 at halftime, then blitzed Cortez in the third quarter, producing points on 10 of their 18 possessions and outscoring the Panthers 22-8 for a 51-28 lead.
Broderick Robinson hit two 3-pointers and scored 11 of his game-high 23 points in the third to lead the charge.
Johnson said his team came out with renewed energy, “then they kept the energy. They didn’t back off. They kept the defensive pressure, and it led to transition (baskets).
“They did much better in the second half. They got up to a 20-, 25-point lead, and they wanted to stay on the floor. They didn’t back off.”
Montezuma-Cortez was without several players because of illness and suited up only eight players. Panthers coach Dusty DeBoer thought his squad could have kept the score closer with a full contingent, but he gave Grand Junction its due.
“They stepped up in the second half, and we basically ran out of gas,” he said.
Montezuma-Cortez also faltered early because of turnovers against the Tigers’ pressure, giving the ball away seven times in falling behind 16-2.
“Grand Junction’s really athletic, well-coached, and they’re disciplined,” DeBoer said. “They were really good at picking our pockets.”
Trenton Soriano with 10 points was the only other Tiger to score in double figures. He drained three 3-pointers, and was fouled on one of them and converted a four-point play.