Showing his Powers: Tigers’ senior ignites fourth-quarter rally

Sam Morgan of Grand Junction ducks under the defense of Unitah’s Gavin Bullock.

When the Grand Junction High School boys basketball team needed someone to take a big shot last year, it was clear who took it.

This season it could be anybody. Several of them did to open the Tigers’ season with a 63-58 victory over Uintah (Vernal, Utah) on Tuesday night at the Tiger Den.

“We lost some players that could take the big shots,” Grand Junction senior Tommy Powers said. “This year, we have a bunch of players that can. Everyone’s a part of that role now.”

Powers was one of the players taking big shots, leading the team with 16 points, including seven in the fourth quarter before fouling out.

Tyler Winder hit some big shots and finished with 15 points. Mark Stern had a couple 3-pointers and scored 10. Jesse Smith and Sam Morgan had eight each. Casey Burns scored six.

“We don’t have the group of kids we had,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “There’s not a whole lot of varsity experience. We had some kids step up tonight. We have that question mark to start the season, who will step up and I thought we had a handful of guys do it.

“We were more balanced. Mark Stern made some shots, Jesse got going in the second half. Winder was huge tonight. I think he played 28 minutes and had zero turnovers. He did a great job taking care of the ball. Casey Burns did a good job.”

The Tigers (1-0) and Uintah (0-1) exchanged leads 11 times before the Utes went on an 11-2 run in the third quarter to build the largest lead of the game, 45-37.

That’s when Grand Junction tuned up its defense to ignite its comeback.

“That’s what we talked about,” Johnson said. “The first half and the first half of the third quarter, we were soft defensively. I told them there was no sense of urgency, until they saw we were down eight with a few minutes to go in the third quarter. All of a sudden, they start pressuring the ball, flying around defensively and started causing turnovers.

“They kind of took it upon themselves, but that should be our mentality from the tip. We weren’t aggressive enough first half of the game. We were letting them penetrate.”

Grand Junction forced seven turnovers during its 16-6 run to regain the lead, 53-51.

Powers led the charge with a 3-pointer, a drive to the basket, a steal and a layup within a two-minute stretch.

“I thought tonight, he took over,” Johnson said. “He was our leader and we were much better with him on the floor. He made shots and got some big steals.”

Stern, who hit a 3-pointer early in the run, gave the Tigers the lead for good with a jumper for a 55-53 lead.

Uintah responded by attacking the basket, but only hit 2 of 5 free throws in the final two minutes. The Utes were plagued by missed free throws, making only 8 of 16.

The Utes had three players in double figures, led by Josh Ewell with 19 points. Gavin Bullock had 16 and Collin Boren scored 10.


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