Grand Junction gets easy win over Cortez

Grand Junction’s Casey Burns rises to the basket Friday night over Cortez’s Jonathon Vallejos during the Tigers’ 64-39 victory over the Panthers at Grand Junction High School.



Nate Yanez had a feeling Friday night was going to be a good night.

The Grand Junction High School boys basketball player nailed a 3-pointer on his first shot and didn’t slow down, scoring a game-high 22 points in the Tigers’ 64-39 home win over Montezuma-Cortez.

Yanez had four 3-pointers in the first half and added one more in the third quarter. He also went 7 or 9 from the free-throw line.

“I felt it in warm-ups,” Yanez said. “After I hit the first couple I knew I was on, but it was about all of us getting a win tonight.”

Yanez’s early spark helped the Tigers (9-5, 1-1 Southwestern League) start the first quarter on a 16-3 run.

“When he plays with confidence and just shoots, he’s as good of a shooter as anyone in the league,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “But I think Casey (Burns) and (Tyler) Winder both did a good job of penetrating then getting it out to him.”

Johnson said he was impressed by the Tigers’ shooting, but was much more satisfied with holding the Panthers to three first-quarter points.

“When you hold a team to three points in the first quarter, that’s a good way to start it,” Johnson said. “We did a great job.”

The early cushion was enough to withstand a competitive push from the Panthers in the second and third quarters. Cortez scored 13 points in the second quarter, and outscored Grand Junction 15-14 in the third quarter.

“We got off to a great start in the first, but there was still three to go,” Johnson said. “We just have to get that killer mentality.”

Despite some lulls on both sides for the Tigers, Cortez never got closer than 12 points at 43-31 late in the third quarter.

“I think we were playing to the scoreboard more than playing like a tight game,” Johnson said. “We were gambling too much defensively and taking too many chances.

“We were trading buckets in the second and third quarter, and to go on runs, you can’t do that.”

In the fourth quarter, Sean Rubalcaba closed the game with 10 of his 17 points, including going 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.

“That was classic Ruby,” Johnson said. “He catches the ball in the high post, gets the basket, gets fouled, but somehow gets it to go in,”

Grand Junction handed the Panthers their first SWL loss, and earned its first league win.

“It’s huge, they were standing at 2-0 in the league,” Johnson said. “Every home league game is big, and now we have to turn around and play well.”

Corey Adams led Cortez with 10 points. Ryan Haley added nine.

“This was the first step to getting back on track in league,” Yanez said.

Grand Junction host Durango at 1:30 p.m. today.


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