Tigers push for playoffs with win over Central

The reality of a playoff berth finally sunk in for the Grand Junction High School boys basketball team Friday night after downing rival Central 75-47 to wrap up the regular season.

Grand Junction hit five 3-pointers and went 18 of 28 from the free-throw line for a season-high 75 points. 

The Tigers now have to wait until Sunday to find out if they are part of the 48-team state tournament bracket. The Tigers (14-8, 7-3 Southwestern League) finished third in the SWL, behind Fruita and Montrose.

The Tigers are looking to catch fire like they did when they broke league champion Fruita’s 25-game conference win streak.

“I hope we can surprise someone,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “Hopefully we can get a little more consistent. We’ve been a streaky shooting team so far this season and hopefully we can heat up at the right time.”

Against Central, Casey Burns led the Tigers with 16 points, eight from the free-throw line. Broderick Robinson added 11, with three straight 3-pointers in the second quarter. Grand Junction also benefitted from strong rebounding, with 17 offensive rebounds, 11 in the second half.

The second-chance points, Johnson said, is a product of team play, something the Tigers developed during the season.

“I think at the beginning of the season we had a bunch of individuals,” Johnson said. “We’re playing much more like a team on the offensive and defensive ends and it shows.”

Central (0-24, 0-10 SWL) was led by Edward Becoat with 13, and Trey Fair had 10.

Central has lost 27 game over the past two seasons, but graduating only four seniors, first-year coach Ryan Hayden said he has confidence in the underclassmen to deliver.

“We’ve got a ton of potential in the program,” Hayden said. “I think they’ve proven that their resilience is incredible. They’re going to keep working hard and keep getting better in the offseason.”

Palisade 48, Battle Mountain 41: A 22-15 run over the middle two quarters pushed the Bulldogs to the win.

Behind 16 points from Kane Gunther, Palisade (17-6, 9-3 Western Slope League) broke a 17-17 tie after the first quarter by holding the Huskies to only six points in the second quarter for a 29-23 halftime lead. The Bulldogs will find out their playoff position on Sunday.


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