Second-half run by Regis dooms Tigers
AURORA — With a little more than three minutes remaining in the third quarter Wednesday evening, Grand Junction High School’s boys basketball team had to be feeling good about how things were developing in the Sweet 16 of the Class 5A state playoffs.
The Tigers only trailed host Regis Jesuit by five points and were within striking distance of the region’s top seed. Unfortunately for Grand Junction, a seemingly innocent basket from Raiders standout guard Josh Perkins ignited an outburst that the Tigers couldn’t match.
Regis closed the third quarter with a 14-2 run before pouring it on early in the fourth, shutting down the Tigers’ hopes with a 67-42 victory.
“All it took was that four minutes for them to go on that stretch,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “All of a sudden we’re down seven to down 20, just like that.”
Overall the Raiders (21-4) outscored the Tigers 32-6 from late in the third quarter into the fourth, effectively putting the game away. Perkins, after a quiet first half, erupted for 14 of his game-high 23 points during that stretch.
“What happened is Perkins. That’s what happened,” Johnson said. “I thought Zach (Kiel) and Broderick (Robinson) did a great job on him all night long, and you can’t guard with him one guy.
“First half we did a great job of everybody guarding him, in the paint and frustrating him. Last part of the third quarter we didn’t do that.”
Perkins made only three of 12 shots in the first half but made seven of 10 from the field in the final two quarters. He hit four consecutive attempts to cap the Raiders’ run in the fourth quarter before Grand Junction scored 10 of the next 12 points.
“He’s a great player. That’s all you’ve really got to say about him,” said Kiel, who did his best to slow Perkins all evening. “He can do what he needs to do.”
Robinson paced Grand Junction (18-6) with 22 points, D.J. Wells scored seven and Kyler Rose six. The Tigers struggled to find their shooting touch in the second half, though, as Regis Jesuit knocked down 11 of 12 shots at one point.
“It’s their home court, so we expected them to make the shots they did,” Kiel said. “We just tried the best we could on defense, but sometimes you just can’t get it done.”
Kip Boryla added 12 points for the Raiders, who — after scoring only 20 points in the first half — more than doubled that output in the second half.
Johnson said the Tigers didn’t really change how they guarded, but the Raiders simply got hot when it mattered most.
“They’re all such capable shooters, and we’re helping so much that they’re going to get looks,” Johnson said. “I think we kind of ran out of gas a little bit, and we got worn down. It was hard to sustain what we did in that first half.”
Robinson had 14 of his team’s 25 second-half points. The junior is among a number of key players who return next season to a team that won the Southwestern League title and advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008.
Grand Junction will graduate three seniors in Kiel, Rose and Liesen Crow.
“In 10 years it’s right up there with not only one of the most successful seasons we’ve had, but the funnest season we’ve had with this group,” Johnson said. “We lose three really, really high-character kids … but we’ve got some good pieces coming back.”