Playing his role very well

GJ's Powers makes key defensive stop in Tigers' win

Shane Powers truly defines the term role player.

As a non-starter for the Grand Junction High School boys basketball team, Powers, a senior, is a player coaches dream about. The one who works his tail off in practice only to see others ahead of him get the limelight and the headlines.

Friday night, however, was Powers’ time to shine, and his moment came on the biggest play of the game.

Powers came off the bench to score nine points in the Tigers’ gutsy 49-47 win over Durango at Grand Junction High School. In addition to his nine points, Powers also had five assists and four steals, but none more crucial than the one he had with less than four seconds left in the game.

After the Tigers built an 11-point lead (46-35) with 1:24 remaining, the game seemed all but locked up, The Demons, however, went on a 12-2 run by hitting four consecutive three-pointers, cutting the lead to 48-47 with 4.8 seconds left, stunning the Tigers.

“You almost feel like you have the game won,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said, “then they come down and hit shot after shot after shot after I thought we had done a great job of defending them on the perimeter.”

After Dylan Bennett hit one of two free throws to put the Tigers up 49-47, the Demons (11-10, 3-5 Southwestern League) had one last shot at the win or a tie. But, when Durango got the ball past halfcourt, Powers stripped the ball from Durango’s Kaleb Cobb as he went up for a jumper to secure the win.

“That was such a great play,” Johnson said. “(Powers) is so aggressive defensively. The kid comes off the bench and gets steals for us every single game. That was a huge, huge play he made at the end of the game.”

Powers, as the true role player he is, was focused on one thing and one thing only — defense.

“Honestly I wasn’t thinking about anything except guarding my man,” he said. “I saw my guy catch the ball and go up for a shot and I was able to get the ball away from him.”

That one play was the end result of a thrilling and physical win for the Tigers (12-7, 5-2).

“This was a big win for us, especially coming off the win against Fruita (Feb. 3),” Powers said. “This was a battle tonight physically, but we are playing with a lot of confidence right now and we made plays when we needed to.”

From the opening tip, bodies were banging and it was clear whichever team won, it wasn’t going to come easy.

“It was brutal, but it always is against Durango,” said senior Casey Burns, who finished with a team-high 17 points. “When we played (in Durango) it was even more physical, but that’s just how (Durango) comes to play. You know it’s going to be a physical battle and you just have to focus on not letting it get to our heads.”

Burns and fellow senior Sean Rubalcaba combined to score 10 of Junction’s 17 fourth-quarter points, including a 6-0 run to give the Tigers that 11-point lead at 46-35, which almost slipped away.

“It was very important for us to stay focused and survive that last push (Durango) had,” Rubalcaba said. “We were in a situation like that the week before against Fruita, so we knew how to react and stick with what we know how to do and that’s play defense.”

The big win for the Tigers was key for several reasons: it was senior night, a home game and a league game. But for Johnson, it was more key to continue the team morale.

“I think they are confident right now,” Johnson said. “Things seem like they are starting to click and they are doing a great job of playing together right now.”

GIRLS

The Grand Junction girls took another step toward a possible Southwestern League title with a convincing 54-35 victory over Durango (4-15, 2-6) Friday night to remain undefeated in league play.

The Tigers (17-3, 7-0) are on a 10-game win streak, but this win didn’t come easy either and needed someone to make big plays. And as with the boys game, another role player came to the rescue as sophomore Shafer Rubalcaba scored 10 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter. And after the Tigers struggled to find any rhythm in the third quarter, Rubalcaba came to the rescue.

“I was definitely feeling it,” she said “I remember thinking how I wanted to do all I could to help the seniors win on senior night.”

When leading scorer Jamie Derrieux picked up her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter and went to the bench, the Tigers turned to the hot hand of Rubalcaba.

“Shafer was huge for us tonight,” Junction coach Sam Provenza said. “She was feeding off other players and other players were feeding off her. They were out there figuring it out and that’s what they do.”

In addition to Rubalcaba’s big night, the Tigers got a game-high 15 points and six steals from freshman point guard Sydni Brandon and 14 points from Derrieux.

As a team, the Tigers forced 23 turnovers.

“We talk about reaching our goals but getting though roadblocks to reach those goals and this was one of them,” Provenza said. “We still have some work to do, but the girls are playing with a high level of confidence right now.”


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