Showing their teeth: Tigers’ defense shuts down Central in easy victory

Grand Junction’s Sean Rubalcaba soars in to score two of his 14 points Tuesday night in the Tigers’ 62-33 victory over Scott Brennan, left, and Central. Rubalcaba was one of four Tigers in double figures.

No matter what the Central High School boys basketball team tried, it didn’t seem to work.

Grand Junction limited the Warriors to 37 percent shooting and forced more than two dozen turnovers Tuesday night to roll to a 62-33 Southwestern League victory at Central High School.

The Tigers did that despite a history of not playing well at Central.

“It’s kind of been our tradition to not play very good here,” Grand Junction senior Nate Yanez said. “Coach (Dutch Johnson) was getting us mentally prepared for tonight. He said it was going to be a tough place to play and it was.

“They came out ready to play. We had to D up.”

Four players scored in double figures to lead the Tigers (11-5, 3-1 SWL). Casey Burns had 15, Sean Rubalcaba 14, Yanez 12 and Tyler Winder 10.

Taylor Sanchez led the Warriors (1-14, 0-4 SWL) with 16 points. Zach Padilla was limited to two points on a rebound and putback in the third quarter.

Both teams started out slow, turning the ball over five times in the first eight possessions and neither team could settle down.

“There was not much rhythm,” Johnson said. “Neither team really had a half-court possession. Part of it was we missed layup after layup and a bunch of free throws. We were 4 for 13 on free throws in the first half.

“It very well could be (part of a rivalry game). Maybe we put too much pressure on ourselves and think too much.”

Grand Junction shot only 43 percent from the free-throw line. The Tigers made 21 of 45 field goals (47 percent).

The Tigers, though, took better care of the ball, going on a 15-0 run late in the first quarter and into the second to build a 27-9 lead.

“We knew Central would come out in zone and I thought we did a great job with our zone offense,” Johnson said. “When they went to man, we got dribble-happy.”

Yanez scored eight points during the run, most of them fast-break points off turnovers. Grand Junction led 33-11 at halftime.

“Anytime you hold a team to 11 points in a half, you give yourself a chance to win,” Johnson said. “We’re finally getting it going on the defensive end. On Saturday, we held Durango to 13 points in the first half. For whatever reason, the third quarter has been one of our downfalls. We let them go on a run early.”

Central lost one of its key components to its offense when Sanchez picked up his fourth foul with 5:45 left in the second quarter. He sat for the rest of the half as the Warriors struggled to find their offense.

Sanchez started the second half and got the offense going, scoring eight of the Warriors’ 12 points in the third quarter, but it wasn’t enough. Sanchez fouled out with 3:15 left in the game.

“Hopefully this keeps us rolling,” Yanez said. “We have to win out to win the league, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Grand Junction plays at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Montrose. Central hosts Fruita Monument at 7 p.m. on Friday.


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