Grand Junction girls play well without scouting competition
Most basketball teams want to know its opponent inside and out.
It’s easy to think the more familiar a team is with personnel and schemes, the more successful it will be.
For the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team, the opposite is true.
The Tigers seem to be at their best this season when they’re less tuned in on their opponent.
That could make them dangerous in the Class 5A state playoffs, starting at 7 p.m. tonight at home against Boulder.
“We tend to play better against people we don’t know a lot about,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said. “Maybe that works in our favor.”
The proof that Grand Junction plays well without much scouting was evident this season. Early on, the Tigers played Fort Collins (a No. 6 seed) and Heritage (No. 3) in the Heritage Hoopla Tournament.
The Tigers defeated Fort Collins 41-36 before losing two close games to Air Academy and Heritage. Grand Junction was within five points heading into the fourth quarter in the two losses.
A few weeks after the Heritage tournament, Grand Junction played Fountain-Fort Carson, a No. 3 seed in the playoffs, and pulled to within three points before losing 55-52.
“Air Academy, Heritage, Fountain-Fort Carson, those are good basketball teams,” Provenza said. “We played with all of them, so maybe familiarity isn’t as good for us.”
The Tigers are made up of primarily underclassmen, with only one senior who plays significant minutes, center Nicole Dohm.
Provenza said he’s noticed the young Tigers play looser in nonconference games.
“I think it allows them to focus more on themselves and not so much on the other team,” Provenza said. “I think there have been times when the kids outthink themselves and end up focusing more on the opponent than what we’re doing.”
That’s not to say the Tigers’ potential opponents in the postseason will take the same approach.
Grand Junction is full of athletes, led by juniors Fawn Brady, Stephanie Drake and Paula Lage. Brady and Lage, are versatile 5-foot-11 post players, both able to handle the ball on the perimeter or post up, and both average more than 10 points a game.
Drake stands at only 5-5, but provides speed at the guard position. With Grand Junction’s wide-open attack, Drake’s ability to get out ahead of the defense provides easy buckets.
Leading the fast break is usually 5-10 sophomore guard Jamie Derrieux, who leads the team in scoring at 13.9 points a game.
“We know we have to go out and push the tempo,” Derrieux said. “But we’ve been working on how to play with a lead, and being able to slow it down when we need to.”
If Grand Junction can get past Boulder, it will face No. 4 seed Aurora Central on Saturday.
“I feel like we have a good opportunity to go far,” Derrieux said. “Like every team we want to go as far as we can, but we also want to set a good tone for next year.”