Points will be at a premium for Tigers

Fruita Monument’s Kassidy Fair, #23, runs into Grand Junction’s triple threat defense of Tori Catlett, left, Sarah Wilkinson, rear, and Shafer Rubalcaba, right, during a recent game at Grand Junction High School.


Grand Junction (22-2) at Poudre (19-5)

6:30 p.m. today at Poudre High School, Fort Collins

The coaches

Grand Junction — Sam Provenza

Poudre — Curtis Glesmann

Top Players

Grand Junction — Sydni Brandon, 5-7, jr., 12.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 4.4 apg, 122 steals; Tori Catlett, 6-0, soph., 8.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 44 steals, 31 blocks; Shafer Rubalcaba, 5-9, sr., 6.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 38 steals; Elisha Jahnke, 5-9, sr., 6.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 63 steals; Sarah Wilkinson, 6-1, sr., 6.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.8 apg, 29 steals, 18 blocks; Erika Meister, 5-6 sr., 2.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 26 steals.

Poudre — Myanne Hamm, 5-11, sr., 13.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.6 apg, 64 steals; Ashley McDaniel, 6-1, sr., 11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 35 steals; Cecelia Berkner, 5-10, soph., 7.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg; McKenzie McDaniel, 5-10 sr., 7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 35 steals; Anna Haugen, 5-10, soph., 3.9 ppg, 3 rpg, 39 steals; Reagan Travis, 5-8, sr., 3.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 40 steals.

About the Impalas

■ They have won eight games in a row and 11 of their past 12. They started the year 4-3 and went 15-2 thereafter. Three of their losses have been by one point.

■ They finished third in the 5A Front Range League with a 13-3 mark, behind Fossil Ridge (15-1) and Horizon (14-2).

■ They have one common opponent with Grand Junction: Monarch. Poudre lost 42-41 to Monarch on Jan. 21. Grand Junction defeated Monarch 53-49 on Friday in the second round of the state playoffs.

■ The Impalas have made 46 3-pointers (22 percent), and only two players have made 10 or more: Myanne Hamm with 14 and McKenzie McDaniel with 10.

■ Team shoots 41 percent from the field.

■ They shoot 67 percent from the free throw line, averaging 17.1 attempts per game. Ashley McDaniel has made 78 of 100, and Hamm has made 78 of 111.

■ They average about 11.5 steals per game and turn the ball over 13.6 times per game.

About the Tigers

■ They won the Southwestern League with a 9-1 record.

■ Grand Junction has won six games in a row since losing 38-36 to ThunderRidge in a nonleague game Feb. 5. The Tigers opened the season by winning their first 11 games.

■ Brandon leads the team with 26 3-pointers, converting 31 percent of her attempts from beyond the arc. Jahnke is next with 11 3-pointers, and Melissa Atchley has made eight. The team has made 54 3-pointers, making them at a 28 percent clip.

■ The team shoots 40 percent from the field, with Wilkinson tops among the starters at 49 percent.

■ The Tigers attempt an average of 18.7 free throws per game and make 58 percent. Brandon has been to the line the most, making 104 of 142, 73 percent, and Wilkinson has shot 75 and made 40, 53 percent.

■ Team averages 15.2 steals per game and turns over the ball an average of 13 times per game.

Don’t expect points. Perish the thought now.

Poudre and Grand Junction have established all season they get the job done on defense, and their opponents have suffered the consequences.

So, when the two meet at 6:30 tonight in Fort Collins in the Sweet 16 of the Class 5A state girls basketball playoffs, expect points to be few and hard-earned.

Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said Poudre (19-5) has the No. 1 defense in the state for fewest points allowed per game at 32, and his Tigers (22-2) aren’t far behind, allowing a mere 35 points per game.

“They play straight man, and if the ball goes inside, they collapse real hard,” Provenza said of the Impalas, who are seeded second in the Alice Barron Region, one spot above Grand Junction. “They’re very paint-conscious. They try to keep you out of the paint, not allowing any easy shots inside.”

That approach has become familiar to the Tigers late in the season as opposing defenses tried to keep them away from the basket and limit the damage Grand Junction’s two 6-footers, Sarah Wilkinson and Tori Catlett, can do with passes inside. Defenses also have packed the paint to take away drives from Tigers point guard Sydni Brandon.

Grand Junction has been able to solve those efforts, winning their past six games by scoring at least 50 points in each game.

Their challenge now is to solve a Poudre defense that yielded more than 50 points twice in 24 games and kept opponents below 40 points 19 times.

“We’re going to have to play a good perimeter game,” Provenza said. “We’re going to have to move the ball with some confidence, get some of their paint players to commit and give us some lanes, some looks.”

What Grand Junction’s defense will face is an offense fueled by three tall players who are comfortable inside and outside.

Myanne Hamm, a 5-foot-11 senior guard and Colorado State University recruit, leads the team in points (13.9 per game), rebounds (5.4 per game) and steals (64). Senior sisters Ashley McDaniel (11.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and McKenzie McDaniel (7 ppg, 4.9 rpg) are 6-foot-1 and 5-foot-10, respectively, and Provenza called them smart, versatile players.

Provenza said, “Those three are their best players.”

He added, “The McDaniel sisters, if you play too close, they’ll curl off a screen and take midrange shots.”

The Impalas in general keep things simple. They run a motion offense and “live by the midrange shot,” Provenza said.

“It’s mostly basic basketball,” he added, “and sometimes that’s all it needs to be.”

Brandon, who leads an extremely balanced Grand Junction offense with 12.9 points per game, said she doesn’t know much about the Impalas, and that doesn’t worry her.

She said the Tigers have regained their confidence, especially after last Friday’s 53-49 victory over Monarch in the second round of the state playoffs.

“It’s all about confidence, and we have our confidence back,” Brandon said.

She said the Tigers also are excited to finally get to this juncture in the state playoffs after bowing out in the second round the previous two seasons.

Grand Junction is seeking a spot in the Great 8 now, and it would like to earn a measure of respect, too.

“It’s always fun being the underdog against the (Front Range) teams, because they think they’re going to kill you,” Brandon said. “It’s fun to prove them wrong.”

Provenza said his players ultimately will have to do one thing to win tonight.

“You’re in the Round of 16, so you better play like you’re in the Round of 16,” he said. “We have to play our game, and we have to play our best game.”

The winner of the Grand Junction-Poudre game advances to a Thursday quarterfinal at the Denver Coliseum against the winner of the game between No. 1-seed Cherry Creek (21-3) and fourth-seeded Rock Canyon (17-7).


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