Go 4th and prosper: Strong fourth quarter lifts Tigers past Wildcats
The Grand Junction High School girls basketball team slowed the pace and sped it up at the same time.
Friday night at home against Fruita Monument, the Tigers (9-7, 2-3 Southwestern League) opened the fourth quarter by using a swarming full-court pressure defense and a deliberate, well-executed offense to defeat the Wildcats 56-38.
“We talked about doing things right and putting on more pressure,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said. “We had some set plays and I think we got six to eight points off those.”
Grand Junction took a 35-29 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter and pushed it to 40-31 with five minutes remaining. The Tigers have struggled in previous games to close games, but led by Jamie Derrieux and Fawn Brady, they were able to control the fourth quarter.
“We slowed our offense down because we have to learn to play with a lead,” forward Paula Lage said. “We only took good shots, and tried not to turn it over.”
Fruita Monument (6-8, 0-2 SWL) cut a 10-point halftime deficit to four points by the end of the third quarter. The Wildcats were playing their first game in two weeks, and couldn’t find any offensive rhythm early, scoring only 15 points in the first half.
Fruita was able to get plenty of looks at the basket, but had trouble getting anything to fall.
“It was obvious we hadn’t played in two weeks,” Fruita Monument coach Dan Schmalz said. “Our offense didn’t show up until later.”
When the Wildcats’ offense did arrive in the third quarter, Grand Junction made enough plays to keep Fruita at bay. Provenza said the Tigers were aware of how dangerous Fruita can be.
“Fruita is a good team and they can shoot their way back into games,” Provenza said. “In the fourth, we extended the defense and tried to make them pick up the ball earlier than they’d like to.”
Offensively, Grand Junction was led by Derrieux’s 15 points. Brady had 12 points, eight in the fourth quarter, that helped the Tigers clinch the game.
“Fawn is so confident in her game,” Provenza said. “You know in tight situations she will do something positive with the ball.”
Brady also finished with five assists.
Fruita Monument was led by Keila Utu’s 10 points. The Wildcats look to bounce back today against Montrose.
“0-2 in the league isn’t very good,” Schmalz said. “I’d like to get one (today), and if we knock some shots down we’ll be OK.”
The win for Grand Junction stopped a three-game slide. Coming off Tuesday’s loss to Central, Lage said it was gratifying to beat the rival Wildcats.
“It felt so amazing,” Lage said. “Tonight we played a complete 32 minutes.”
The Tigers, who play at Eaglecrest this afternoon, are in the final stretch of their season, with seven more games. After three straight league losses, Provenza said the Tigers are focused on setting themselves up for a run in February.
“We talked about having a short season now, and we can do a lot to help ourselves if we start playing the way we are capable,” Provenza said.