Lage’s strong game carries GJ girls past Fruita Monument

Grand Junction’s Paula Lage rises to the basket to score two of her 18 first-half points Friday night during the Tigers’ victory over Fruita Monument. Lage finished with 19 points in a Southwestern League victory.

Grand Junction girls basketball coach Sam Provenza took one look at Paula Lage and knew she was ready.

The determined Grand Junction High School senior scored 18 of her 19 points in the first half Friday night to lead the Tigers to a 57-48 Southwestern League victory in front of a packed home crowd.

“She was on a mission tonight,” Provenza said. “You can tell she was focused because she was relaxed. She had a smile on her face. You could tell she was going to have a good game.

“She’s very capable of that every game. She’s a team player. She’s content getting whatever points she gets.”

Lauren Labonde led Fruita Monument (6-7, 0-1 SWL) with 15 points. Taylor Johnson scored 12 and Kelia Utu added 11.

Lage scored two field goals in the first quarter to build an 11-7 lead.

“I was so relaxed and so ready,” she said. “I’m one of those people, I need the most amount of time to get ready. I pace before every game just to get ready and my team knows it.”

Lage, who scored 20 points in a victory Tuesday against Moffat County, was just warming up.

She scored the Tigers’ first 14 points of the second quarter to keep Grand Junction (8-6, 1-0 SWL) ahead 25-21.

She hit free throws, she drove the lane for layups and she took the ball the length of the court, faked a pass and made a left-handed layup.

“I think the key tonight was Paula Lage went off in the second quarter,” Fruita coach Dan Schmalz said. “We didn’t match up well with her for one reason or another.

“She’s a tall girl and very athletic. She’s tough to stop. It’s hard for a post to guard her. I feel we have good defenders, but she did a very good job of getting to the basket.”

Fruita Monument was able to stay close with 3-pointers from Labonde, Megan Reynoso and Utu. They combined to make five 3-pointers and Fruita trailed 29-24 at halftime.

Grand Junction took a risk extending its defense to defend the 3-pointer in the second half and it paid off.

The Wildcats were limited to two 3-pointers and 26 percent shooting (6 of 23) in the second half.

“We put a little more pressure, we tried to do some trapping and disrupt their flow,” Provenza said. “That’s a timing offense and I think we disrupted their timing a little bit. We told them we’ve got to hit the boards harder and we did a nice job hitting the boards.”

The Tigers went on a 7-0 run to take a 36-28 lead and pushed the lead to 10 by the end of the quarter.

Fruita went on a 7-2 run to start the fourth quarter and cut the lead to five, but Grand Junction hit 5 of 7 free throws to hold off the Wildcats.

The Tigers made 19 of 24 free throws (79 percent) in the game.

“We practice free throws, but we don’t overemphasize it,” Provenza said. “We are good perimeter shooters and if you’re good perimeter shooters, you’re usually good free-throw shooters.”


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