Second-half improvement gives Grand Junction hope in season-opening loss
A big first half by the Fairview High School girls basketball team put Friday night’s game against Grand Junction out of reach early. A better second half by the Tigers left them with more confidence in spite of the final score.
Ashley Panem and Denali Pinto set the pace for the Knights, combining for 43 points to defeat Grand Junction 74-37.
“There’s a lot of early season stuff going on there, but that’s why you have a first ballgame,” Tigers coach Sam Provenza said. “Obviously, you’d like to win the first ballgame, but we played the first ballgame against a pretty good team. That’s a playoff team that’s very talented.
“To get to see that (team), and for us to play against that kind of talent and against that kind of style, I have no doubts that (my) team is eventually going to be capable of doing that,” he continued. “Right now, it’s just a matter of taking the steps to get there.”
The Knights (2-0), who last season reached the third round of the Class 5A state tournament, used its transition game to take control early. Fairview forced 29 turnovers — 17 in the first half — thanks to a full-court and half-court press that caused problems for Grand Junction.
The Tigers (0-1) got better, but their improved play in the second half wasn’t enough to cut into the Knights’ 39-11 halftime lead.
“I thought the way we played defense in the half court was pretty decent, but we got beat pretty badly in transition,” Provenza said. “We allowed far too many people to get behind us, but that’s a case of learning how to retreat, how to get back and some other basics things.”
Panem had a game-high 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including 5 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line. Pinto hit her only 3-point shot and finished 9 of 12 shooting from the field, with six of those baskets coming on fast-break layups after a steal.
Pinto set that tone early on, getting three coast-to-coast layups off of steals and her lone 3-pointer as part of an 18-2 Fairview run to close out the second quarter.
Tia Wright had a team-high 12 points and nine rebounds off the bench. Sophomore Mackenzie Younker had eight points and seven rebounds for the Tigers, who were limited to 26.9 percent shooting, including 0 for 7 beyond the arc.
Grand Junction got better as the game moved into the second half — the Tigers more than doubled their first-half scoring output in the final two quarters. The Knights, however, kept their distance and went up 58-24 on a jumper from Izzy Munson with 4 minutes left in the third.
“There’s plenty of things we can learn from this,” said Provenza, whose team hosts Chaparral at 1 this afternoon. “We have a chance to bounce back quick tomorrow.”