Perimeter game paces GJ
The game was barely three minutes old Saturday, and Legend High School’s boys basketball team had made it clear to Grand Junction what its athletic squad could do.
The Titans scored on their first five possessions, fast breaking off Grand Junction’s missed shots and feeding the ball to their big man, 6-foot-8 Zach Mihalicz, three times to hit two layups and a turn-around jumper in the lane. That produced a 10-3 lead and could have been cause for panic.
Instead, the Tigers remained calm, settled into their offense and started draining 3-pointers: two by Trenton Soriano, one by Greg Eccher and one by Broderick Robinson. Then, on the possession after Robinson’s 3-pointer, Robinson hit a short shot in the lane to give Grand Junction a 14-12 lead with one minute, 46 seconds left in the first quarter.
At that point, the Tigers had made it clear to Legend what they could do.
And it was more of Grand Junction’s patient, half-court offense the rest of the way that carried the Tigers (9-2) to a 62-54 nonleague win at Grand Junction High School.
“That’s the most patience and best ball movement we’ve had all year,” Tigers coach Dutch Johnson said.
Grand Junction needed it, especially its onslaught of 3-pointers that tied the game 12-12.
Johnson said it was a good thing his shooters were on the mark, or the Tigers could have been trailing 10-0 or worse. By halftime, Grand Junction had seven 3-pointers, with three apiece from Soriano and Robinson, and the Tigers led 30-26.
Robinson had 11 of his game-high 19 points at the half and the full attention of the Titans’ defense, but denying Robinson shots meant other Tigers got to shoot, and they delivered.
“Grand Junction executed extremely well,” said Legend coach Kevin Boley, whose squad dropped to 7-4. “They made it hard for us to guard them, and they shot it exceptionally well, especially in the first half.”
Boley added Robinson, who had six rebounds and five assists, was the difference.
“He made the other guys on their team better, and they made the shots they needed to,” Boley said.
Johnson agreed, saying, “I thought this was Broderick’s best game, all-around his best game, and I thought he made everyone else better.”
Among the Tigers who benefitted was Ridge Droskin, who dropped in 13 points, making four of six field-goal attempts and all five of his free throws.
“Ridge is getting better every game,” Johnson said. “I thought Tuesday against Uintah was his best game, then today was even better.”
Johnson also mentioned the contributions of Soriano, Eccher and Ben Volkmann, then added, “Everyone’s sharing the ball. No one cares who gets the credit.”
By the fourth quarter, Grand Junction’s offense forced Legend to extend its defense and trap on the perimeter, which led to the Titans sitting Mihalicz for a quicker lineup. Even when Mihalicz was on the floor, the Tigers slowed him down after his initial outburst, and that primarily reflected the defense of 6-7 center DJ Wells.
“He’s a good player. He’s a load,” Johnson said of Mihalicz, who entered the game averaging 16.8 points per contest and finished Saturday with 12 points. “DJ did a good job on him. ... We could leave DJ on an island with him, down low on that big guy,” allowing the other Tigers to focus on their man-to-man assignments.
Wells did his part on offense, too, scoring 12 points, including two baskets down low on the Tigers’ first two possessions of the second half, each answering a basket by Legend that had cut the lead to two points.
Robinson’s fourth and final 3-pointer came with 3:04 left in the game and gave Grand Junction its largest lead, 57-43.