SWL champion Tigers top rival Fruita to close out regular season
They weren’t going to talk about the Southwestern League boys basketball title until they had played Fruita Monument.
Grand Junction wrapped up the league championship earlier this week, but on Friday, after a 63-52 win over Fruita Monument, the Tigers could talk titles.
And Grand Junction seniors Kyler Rose, Zach Kiel and Liesen Crow ended their final high school basketball regular season the right way.
In the teams’ final regular-season game, host Grand Junction defeated Fruita Monument behind Broderick Robinson’s 23 points.
Greg Eccher had 13 points, including three 3-pointers, for the Tigers (17-5, 9-1 SWL).
Donny Thornhill led Fruita Monument (8-16, 2-8) with 15 points and Spencer Fair added 14.
“We lost to Fruita Monument in football, lost to Fruita at Fruita in basketball,” Rose said, “so to end the season, as seniors, we had to get the win versus Fruita.”
Rose was also speaking of Kiel, who stood beside Rose outside the Tigers’ locker room after the game.
“For me, being a senior, I was going to go out and win,” Kiel said. “We just wanted it more. Hustled more on defense. That was about it.”
Robinson scored his 23 points with few turnovers, dished out numerous assists and added a pair of 3-pointers, the final coming with 3 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the game to put the Tigers ahead 49-38.
“I think Broderick proved he’s the best player in the league tonight,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said, “if he didn’t prove it already.”
Because of the rivalry, Johnson said he expected what he saw.
“In the first half we had a lot of bad fouls because they were just playing so hard,” Johnson said. “Diving for balls, running people over, and it was the same for both teams. It’s hard to keep people calm. I told them it’s hard to keep calm, but the team that stays the calmest is going to win.”
Both teams were in foul trouble, particularly inside. Fair fouled out. Rose and his 6-foot-7 teammate, D.J. Wells, fouled out.
The teams combined for 11 3-pointers, however, as the game was won beyond the paint and on defense.
“We didn’t have to say a whole lot going into the game to motivate them to get ready,” Johnson said, “because of all those factors. The rivalry, they beat us in football. We weren’t going to let Kyler Rose go out losing to Fruita three times.”