Slow & steady wins for GJ

Half-court offense helps GJ find rhythm

Grand Junction’s Elisha Jahnke drives to the basket against the defense of Kassady Huffman of Air Academy on Thursday in the Wildcat Invitational.

It’s easy to lose sight of Sydni Brandon as she orchestrates the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team’s offense. Her silky-smooth cuts as she carries the ball up the court can leave a defense helpless.

But Thursday, it was the half-court offense that allowed Grand Junction to put Air Academy away in a 45-37 win during the first day of the Wildcat Invitational at Fruita Monument High School.

During the first half, Brandon walked toward the Grand Junction bench while a teammate shot free throws, her hands on her head. The All-Southwestern League point guard told coach Sam Provenza she was frustrated because she felt like she was “running for no reason” with the Tigers involved in a track meet with the Kadets.

For a team with an offense predicated on rhythm, it just didn’t feel right. The scoreboard showed it, as the Tigers scored only four points in the second quarter to maintain a 19-14 lead.

So, Provenza urged his team during halftime to slow it down in the second half.

“We’re going to run when we can, but I felt like we got in that helter-skelter in the first half,” Provenza said. “Our whole halftime was about getting settled down, and for the most part I thought we did that in the second half. We got a little involved with them when they pushed it at an incredible pace, but we did a good job getting back to our tempo.”

The Tigers opened the second half with two quick buckets on similar plays. Both times, Brandon brought the ball up the court and made a quick pass to the wing. The wing, in turn, fed the ball inside, beating the Air Academy defense.

That got Brandon back in rhythm.

“You could tell when we came out in the second half and scored those first four points right off the bat that we were playing our game and not theirs,” Brandon said. “I know that I was frustrated in the first half, but after getting those four points it boosted me up, and I felt like it boosted all of us up.”

Brandon scored seven of her team-high nine points in the second half.

When Brandon found her groove, the rest of the Tigers’ guards started hitting shots. Grand Junction cruised with 17 points in the third quarter, nearly doubling its point total, then hung on in the fourth quarter.

“I think our cuts were better, and we were making better decisions with the ball,” Provenza said. “I think we got caught up in all of that in the first half, and once we started getting into the half court we started taking better shots.

Tori Catlett chipped in eight points, and Elisha Jahnke added seven.

Jahnke, along with Melissa Atchley, led the perimeter attack for the Tigers.

“I think slowing down the tempo helped all of us, but especially me,” Jahnke said. “When we’re (running a fast-paced offense) I’ll rush my shots, and I won’t finish my shot. When we slow it down it’s a lot easier for me to hit my shot.”

Carbon County (Utah) 42, Delta 21: As the Panthers struggled to fill the void left by four graduating seniors, the Dinos doubled up Delta.

Shelby Curtis, the only returning starter from last season, contributed two-thirds of the Panthers’ total offense with 14 points. The senior forward led all scorers as a versatile, inside-and-out player.

“She was maybe our third or fourth scorer last year,” Delta coach Matt Hamm said. “This year we’ve had to ask her to score all these points for us, and we’re still trying to figure out who we are.

“I think we know that we played poorly today but also realize that it’s a process.”

Jordan Scoggins led Carbon County with 12 points and Shelby Cornforth added eight.


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