Teeth of the Tigers
Pressure defense lifts GJ to victory over Central
At this point in the season, it’s apparent Broderick Robinson and D.J. Wells are the stars of the Grand Junction boys basketball team.
Even the cast of shooters, including Trenton Soriano, Ridge Droskin and Greg Eccher, feels familiar.
But on Tuesday night at Central High School, as the Tigers doubled up the Warriors 66-33 in a Southwestern League contest, yet another side of Grand Junction was visible. Eccher, along with Stockton Rock and Tyson Zanski, jump-started a team-effort on defense that was too much for Central to handle.
Although the hype surrounding Grand Junction centers around its blazing hot offense, Tigers coach Dutch Johnson said all that offense starts on defense. After a slow-by-its-own-standards start for Grand Junction (11-2, 2-0 SWL) in which Central (5-11, 0-3 SWL) hung around, steals in transition sparked a run for the Tigers. Keyed offensively by Robinson, the Tigers started up 6-3 with 4:10 left in the first quarter. By halftime, they were up 37-12.
“When we finally went on that run in the first quarter, we got stops and got out in transition,” Johnson said. “It really starts for us defensively. That’s really an extension of everyone being so unselfish. They don’t care who gets the credit, and they’re sharing the ball.
“If you look at our practice, we’re really 70 percent defense and 30 percent offense. If we continue to share the ball offensively, I think we’ll be able to focus more defensively. And we did try a few different things defensively tonight, pressing a little bit and zoning a little bit, but for us to be successful we have to make stops.”
During and after the Tigers’ big run, Rock and Zanski, some of the first players off the bench, and Eccher, a starter, saw extended time on the floor as Grand Junction pulled away.
Johnson fondly referred to Eccher as a “pest” because of his quick hands and penchant for chatter on the court.
“One guy that’s always the unsung hero for us is Greg Eccher,” Johnson said. “He only had two points tonight, but he’s a coach’s kid and is one of those coaches on the floor for us. He has this calming factor for the guys on the floor for us, and I thought he had a really good game for us tonight.”
Rock and Zanski are big-bodied and athletic defenders whom Johnson said he relies on to defend key players as starters rest.
“I thought Tyson Zanski had a really good game today with those steals and a couple buckets early for us,” Johnson said. “Stockton always comes off the bench for us, and he knows that it’s his role to guard and that we’re going to put him on one of the other team’s better offensive players. He guards, he rebounds, he goes to the offensive boards hard.”
Robinson led the Tigers with 28 points. Wells added nine points with four blocks and eight rebounds. Zanski, Ben Volkmann and Ridge Droskin each scored seven points.
Grand Junction held Trey Fair, the fourth-leading scorer in the SWL, scoreless in the first half. Fair’s first points came on a 3-pointer with 6:14 left in the third quarter, and he finished with eight points. Freshman point guard Julio Galindo, who started for the Warriors, also scored eight points.