Hitting their stride
Defense fuels perfect start for GJ girls hoops team
At last weekend’s Fruita Monument Wildcat Invitational, the rather inexperienced Grand Junction girls began catching and shooting, no hesitation.
“They’d just been reluctant,” Grand Junction girls basketball coach Sam Provenza said. “It’s just youth.”
The Tigers are 7-0 for the first time since MaxPreps began keeping records in 2006. Provenza said it could be the first time in his 13 seasons as head coach the Tigers have started the season with seven straight wins.
But the schedule gets much tougher, something that may help the Tigers should they make the Class 5A state playoffs.
Upcoming are a pair of solid Class 4A opponents at the Montrose High School Black Canyon Tournament.
First, at 6:30 p.m. today, the Tigers play Delta, which is ranked 12th in Class 4A.
It will be the season opener for the Panthers, who return senior Skylyn Webb from a team that last season went 20-5 and advanced to the second round of the 4A playoffs. Last season, Webb averaged 17.5 points per game, and Callie Gafford averaged 11.4 points per game.
The Tigers hope to match Delta’s high-scoring potential.
“They’ve probably spent a lot of time preparing for that first game,” Provenza said. “I’m sure they’re sick of playing against people in the same colored shirt. They’re going to come after us hard, and their point guard is tough.”
The Tigers have shown signs of hitting their stride. In the Wildcat Invitational, Elisha Jahnke (team high 3.2 steals per game), Sydni Brandon and Erika Meister began stroking jumpers off skip or swing passes, particularly in the Tigers’ 60-33 win Saturday over Columbine.
“(Coaches) just tell us to shoot,” Brandon said. “Unlike some coaches, they just let us play through.”
Still, the Tigers have thrived off defense and do not have a player who averages double figures. Shafer Rubalcaba leads the team in scoring at 8.2 points per game. Brandon averages 7.2 points, 2.8 assists and 2.6 steals.
Other notable obstacles for the Tigers, local schools aside: Class 4A’s No. 16 Roosevelt (11 a.m. Saturday at Montrose High); 4A’s No. 3 Pueblo West at home Dec. 20; at Class 5A’s No. 7 Chaparral on Jan. 11; and at Class 5A’s No. 11 ThunderRidge on Jan. 12.
former GJ player Honored in NY
Mike Sharpe, a former elementary and middle school student in Grand Junction, has been selected second team All-Western New York as a linebacker for Canisius High School in Buffalo, N.Y.
Sharpe, a junior, also was selected the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association’s first-team punter.
Sharpe attended Tope Elementary, Caprock Academy and West Middle School. He played football for the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation flag football program, and for the West Raiders, who won the Mesa County Super Bowl when Sharpe was in sixth grade and again as a heavyweight when he was in eighth grade.
“We had some great programs out there,” Sharpe said. “And we had some great coaches. It really helped me transition to the varsity level.”
CENTRAL COACH SEARCH ONGOING
Central High School Athletic Director Randy Powell said the Warriors are no closer to finding a head football coach to replace Vern McGee, who resigned last month.
Powell said the school may stop accepting applications by the end of this week or the beginning of next week.
GJ BOYS COULD be without STARTING TRIO
The Grand Junction boys basketball team is off to a 4-2 start, its only losses being to Class 5A No. 8 Cherokee Trail, 69-40, and Class 4A No. 1 Lewis-Palmer, 55-53.
The Tigers will play in the Douglas County Tournament today through Saturday, beginning with Mountain Range at 7:30 p.m. today. Grand Junction will be without starting shooting guard Henry Carmichael, who rolled an ankle during warmups Dec. 7 against Heritage. Zach Kiel, a three-year starter, has a 50 percent chance of playing, Tigers coach Dutch Johnson said. Carmichael has an injured left shoulder that he initially hurt during last summer’s basketball camps.
And 6-foot-7 starting center D.J. Wells “has been sick as a dog all week,” Johnson said.
Broderick Robinson leads the Tigers in scoring at 15.2 points per game. He also averaged 3.7 assists and 1.7 steals.
DOUBLEHEADER FOR WARRIORS
The Central girls basketball team today will play Windsor at 4 p.m. and Greeley Central at 7 p.m. at the Poudre Invitational.
“They’re young,” Central coach Mary Doane said. “They’d play three or four games if they could.”
Taryn Smith led Central in scoring the final two days of the Fruita Monument Wildcat Invitational last week. Smith had team highs of 13 points in Central’s 44-36 win over Fountain-Fort Carson on Friday and 11 points in the Warriors’ 58-22 loss to Air Academy on Saturday.
In addition to Smith’s offense, Doane said Smith’s defense made it hard for the coach to take the sophomore out of the game for a breather.
Also in Central’s Friday win, sophomore D’Kota Brodie had 12 points.
“For getting into foul trouble early,” Doane said of Brodie, “I thought she showed a lot of maturity rebounding and getting back from that and keeping her head up.”