Pressure pays off
Tigers use full-court press to move into first in SWL
A stifling full-court press, an upbeat Sydni Brandon and a new look from Tori Catlett left Montrose dazed and Grand Junction in first place in the Southwestern League after the Tigers roared to a 50-24 girls basketball win Friday.
The Indians, who entered the game tied for first in the SWL, had seen Grand Junction’s press previously, handling it well enough on Jan. 17 to beat the Tigers 44-35 in a game not as close as the score suggests.
A more determined group of Tigers applied the pressure Friday, and the Indians had the misfortune of being without starting guard Stephanie Rowan, who was out with an injury.
“I think we just played harder,” said Brandon, who scored a game-high 23 points and started or finished many Grand Junction fast breaks off turnovers.
“We were playing man and just pressure,” she added, emphasizing the final two words. “It was all in the press. The press, staying up their faces … and we were finishing our shots.”
Brandon said her team brought something onto the court Friday that was missing in the previous meeting with Montrose: a positive attitude.
“I was mad the whole game and had a bad attitude,” she said of that loss.
She made it clear Montrose (10-7, 5-2 SWL) was facing a different team from the outset, scoring Grand Junction’s first four points and dropping in nine points as the Tigers took a 17-5 lead after one quarter. She had 14 points by halftime, and Grand Junction (17-2, 5-1 SWL) had a 25-12 lead.
Montrose, meanwhile, had 15 turnovers at the intermission, and the Indians didn’t fare much better against the press in the second half despite reducing the turnovers to eight.
“We just didn’t handle it well,” Montrose coach Eric Sanchez said.
Tigers coach Sam Provenza said the Tigers also came into the game with a confidence it gained Wednesday in a close loss to highly ranked ThunderRidge. His team learned it can play at a fast pace and stay with a great team.
Montrose also learned Catlett, a sophomore post player who does most of her scoring near the basket, can shoot from outside. She hit some jump shots, including a pull-up 10-footer in the first quarter and two from 17 to 18 feet in the second half, and finished with 10 points.
“I told (Catlett) she can make those shots, and she should take them,” Provenza said.
Catlett said the outside shot was part of her game at the lower levels, and she’s been trying to bring it to the high school level.
“I want to make it a bigger part of my game,” she said, adding her struggles have been mostly mental.
Catlett’s production also was fueled by the importance of the game, as she said, “League was on the line, and I wanted to beat Montrose.”
Provenza said it was a hard climb to the top for the Tigers after dropping their SWL opener to Montrose.
“Now, the hardest part is staying there,” he said, “because the league didn’t end tonight.”