Grand Junction girls play well without scouting competition

QUICKREAD

No. 12 Boulder (10-13) at No. 5 Grand Junction (13-10)

Time: 7 tonight, Grand Junction High School

Leagues: Boulder — Front Range (2-9); Grand Junction — Southwestern (4-6)

Coaches: Boulder — Dynelle Tadlock, 6th year; Grand Junction — Sam Provenza, 11th year

Past 10: Boulder — 2-8; Grand Junction — 5-5

Leading Scorers: Boulder — Ande Lampert, 10 ppg; Grand Junction — Jamie Derrieux, 13.9 ppg.

Next Game: The winner plays Saturday at No. 4 Aurora Central (14-8)

Notes: Grand Junction did lot of things right to earn the No. 5 seed after a late-season loss to Montezuma-Cortez. The Tigers had to play well in their final two games to regain any chance for a home playoff game, and did, defeating Fruita Monument before playing Central tough. After playing on the road in the first round last season, the Tigers are glad to be home.

“We’ve talked about the importance of the home game,” Provenza said. “I told them, ‘They didn’t give you that seed, you earned that seed.’ “

Grand Junction has the upper hand in tonight’s game — Boulder hasn’t defeated a 5A team over .500 all season. The Panthers’ best win was against 4A Evergreen early in the season. 

The Tigers are a confident group looking to apply early pressure to blow the game open. In the Grand Junction’s final games of the season, the Tigers used a full-court press that allowed them to create turnovers that led to easy baskets.

The Tigers feel they are playing their best basketball of the season, and Provenza said it’s important for them to make the most of their playoff experience.

“Getting extra games is what you want and we are learning how to play when the stakes are high,” Provenza said. “That will be a great learning experience for them.”



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.”


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