Hot start helps GJ clinch tie for SWL title
The Grand Junction High School boys basketball team was embarrassed about its first meeting against Central this season.
A 58-41 loss during the last weekend of January was lingering in the minds of the Tigers players Tuesday night. They wanted to avenge the loss.
Grand Junction (14-7, 8-1 Southwestern League) did more than make up for its only slip in league by crushing the Warriors 73-43 at home to clinch a tie for the SWL title.
“We didn’t play well at all last time,” the Tigers’ Everett Robinson said. “We had no effort and we had to come out and show them that we can play hard.”
Central (18-4, 7-2 SWL) did its best to have the same script as the first game, taking an 8-2 lead in the first two minutes. This time around, though, Grand Junction seemed more comfortable trading basket for basket.
Robinson scored 24 points, including nine in the first quarter. Grand Junction went on a 15-4 run after the early deficit to take a 17-12 first-quarter lead.
“Junction made a nice run at the end of the first quarter that we didn’t recover from,” Central coach Phil Cain said. “We dug too deep of a hole and Junction played great defense, so give them a lot of credit.”
The Tigers also played well on the defensive end, containing Central’s Kahler Grandbouche, who was the difference in the Warriors’ victory over Fruita Monument last weekend.
Grandbouche had four points in the first half and finished with seven.
“I thought we came out and defended for 32 minutes the best we have all year,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “Central is a good, talented team, but we did a lot of things well tonight.”
Robinson continued to apply pressure, going for another nine points in the second quarter, which allowed Grand Junction to push its lead to 40-25 at halftime.
“I was trying to get the team involved and get everyone else pumped up,” Robinson said. “We had to come out ready to play.”
While Robinson and the Tigers lit up the scoreboard, Central’s offensive woes continued in the second half, managing only 18 points. The Warriors were led by Clay Kame, who finished with 15 points.
“Some of the offensive problems have been a bit of slump but some of it is guys not playing within the system,” Cain said. “We have to get back to that.”
Grand Junction’s Geoff Baldwin added 16 points and four rebounds. Matt Wilkinson finished with 10 points.
Baldwin said it was the best game the Tigers have played all season, and the hot start was the key.
“Coming out of the gates we set the tempo and played our style,” Baldwin said. “We played well, made shots and this was by far the best we have played this season.”
With the win, the Tigers are in position to lock up the SWL title outright Friday against Fruita Monument. Central wraps up the regular season at home Friday against Montrose.
“We have Fruita coming in here and they played us tough last time,” Johnson said. “We still have one more to go.”