Lage, Tigers can lock up Southwestern league
Paula Lage was an accomplished softball player in her four seasons at Grand Junction High School.
A four-year starter, Lage was a three-time All-Southwestern League selection at catcher, first base and outfield.
As it turns out, softball is not Lage’s sport.
“I always considered myself more of a basketball player,” Lage said. “I think with softball I did better early on, so maybe that’s why people thought I was more of a softball player.”
This season, the 5-foot-10 senior has proven her worth on the basketball court, averaging 12.8 points per game for the 14-7 Tigers.
“I think we’re in a good spot,” Lage said. “We have some losses, but the wins we’ve gotten have been significant. These next games are tough, but it’s possible to win out.”
The Tigers enter tonight’s home game against Montrose at 7-1 in the Southwestern League, and have an opportunity to wrap up the SWL title. Grand Junction defeated Montrose 55-39 on Jan. 28 in Montrose.
Lage scored 14 points in the Tigers’ first victory over the Indians.
“Paula’s as big of a part of what we do as anyone we have on this team,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said. “She loves basketball and you can see that in the way she has really worked hard at it.”
Provenza always had faith in Lage, starting her as a sophomore. Lage’s role that season was to play defense and rebound, deferring the scoring to Lisa Hughes, who was a senior, and guard Fawn Brady, who was also a sophomore.
“I could see Paula’s talent,” Provenza said. “We had confidence in her as a young player, and we knew where she was going, so it was just a matter of convincing her.”
Lage took a big step forward her junior season, averaging 11 points a game and earning first team All-SWL honors.
Lage created scoring opportunities for Brady and Jamie Derrieux, who averaged over 14 points per game as a sophomore.
Coming into this season, the Tigers were primed to make a run at big things, returning four starters, including Derrieux.
It didn’t take long for things to detour — Derrieux broke her right hand in the second game of the season.
“I had to become a lot more energetic,” Lage said. “(Derrieux) brought a really high level of energy, so I had to bring that, too.”
Lage’s offense has kept teams from being able to focus solely on Brady.
“Paula can handle the basketball, she’s got good range and is a great rebounder,” Provenza said. “Not everyone sees all she does, but as coaches we do.”
Lage has had five 20-point games this season, most recently in a 43-36 victory over Montezuma-Cortez.
“I’ve been a lot more confident this year,” Lage said. “My team has found me a lot this season, and it’s helped our overall confidence.”
When Grand Junction’s season is over, Lage hopes to have a future in basketball.
“I think she’s a college player,” Provenza said. “She turned 17 in November, so she’s young. Some college will get a diamond in the rough, because she has the skill set.”