Hot start lifts GJ past ‘Cats
Paula Lage was itching to get on the floor.
Thursday night at Fruita Monument, the Grand Junction girls basketball team was forced to wait almost 45 minutes past the scheduled tip-off because the junior varsity game ran long.
That might have been a good thing for the Tigers (13-9, 4-5 Southwestern League). Lage exploded out of the gate for eight first-quarter points on the way to a 51-40 win over Fruita Monument (10-12, 3-6 SWL).
“It actually helped because I was so hyped up,” Lage said. “By the time we actually got to the game, we all relaxed and everything was falling.”
Lage scored the first two buckets of the game on the way to a 16-9 first-quarter lead.
“When we get Paula started early, that’s a good thing,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said. “Before the game Paula said, ‘I really need to settle down,’ and I think her hitting those early shots made her relaxed, and gave everyone a boost.”
The Tigers pushed their lead to 21-11 early in the second quarter and took a 32-16 lead into halftime. The Tigers took the floor with an unwavering confidence despite coming off of a tough loss to Montezuma-Cortez last week.
“Our second quarter was from the confidence we gathered during the first,” Provenza said. “They walked on the floor tonight with a lot of confidence.”
Where the Tigers might have been playing with a lot of confidence, Fruita Monument couldn’t seem to get much going. The Wildcats had a poor shooting night, finishing 17 of 51 from the field.
“We weren’t there at the beginning of the game,” Fruita Monument coach Dan Schmalz said. “Our main shooters were shooting a lot, but we weren’t getting the looks when we needed them.”
Grand Junction built its lead to 45-26 with 4:27 remaining in the fourth quarter. Fruita found a spark and got back-to-back 3-pointers from Katie Lewis and Sarah Hensley. Hensley followed that with a layup to cut the lead to 45-36. The Wildcats got as close as 46-40 with 40 seconds left.
“You don’t want to see them ever give up,” Schmalz said. “We cut the lead, and at least had a chance.”
Fawn Brady led Grand Junction with 18 points, Jamie Derrieux had 16 and Lage 15. Taylor Johnson led Fruita with 13 points.
In Montrose, the Central (19-3, 9-0 SWL) girls clinched the SWL title with a 59-45 win. Amy Kame scored a season-high 40 points.
“I knew she was having a night, but you never really know how much until you count it up,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “When the coach is in awe, you know you are good.”
Haleigh Higgins added 11 for the Warriors, who play Grand Junction tonight at home. Montrose wraps up the regular season tonight at Fruita Monument.