Tigers’ strong first quarter leads to win vs. Durango

Grand Junction High School’s Lisa Hughes, left, drives to the basket over Durango’s Neely Surmeier during the second half of Saturday’s game at Grand Junction High School.

The Grand Junction High School girls basketball team can thank a near-perfect start Saturday afternoon for its victory over Durango.

The Tigers (7-7, 2-0 Southwestern League) outscored Durango 20-3 in the first quarter and used that advantage to take care of the Demons 51-29 at Grand Junction High School.

“We weren’t sure who was going to step up, but it was the defensive intensity that began it all,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said. “That is the character of this team.”

The Tigers feasted on a Demons team that was missing its leading scorer, Katerina Garcia, who is sidelined with a sprained foot. With offensive options limited, Grand Junction held Durango to 1-of-17 shooting from the field in the first half and forced 36 turnovers in the game.

“Nobody expected us to be able to win these games, so we have to prove a point to everybody,” Grand Junction’s Paula Lage said. “We wanted to start league 2-0.”

It was the fourth straight victory for the Tigers, who put their 2-0 SWL record on the line Friday night against sixth-ranked Montrose. The Tigers also play a nonleague game Saturday against Eaglecrest.

Lage, who led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points, teamed with post player Lisa Hughes, to be Grand Junction’s main offensive threats.

Fawn Brady missed the game with a swollen left ankle she injured Friday night.

With Brady unavailable, the Tigers needed someone to have a big game and that came in the form of reserve guard Joei Ritter, who scored a season-high 14 points.

Ritter gave the Tigers a 28-8 lead with two minutes remaining in the first half by hitting a 3-pointer, then converted a layup off a Durango turnover.

“Joei hitting that 3 was huge because that was the time where we were starting to fall into a lull,” Provenza said. “We have seen the progress of everyone, especially the bench kids.”

In the second half, Grand Junction continued to pull away but didn’t have the crispness it had to start the game, with several turnovers and fouls.

Provenza blames some of the Tigers’ mistakes on playing without Brady.

“She is a calming effect,” Provenza said. “There were times when we got into too big of a hurry and I don’t know how many travels we had, probably enough to circumnavigate the world.”

Hughes had 10 points, five rebounds and three blocks. Durango was led by Neely Surmeier’s 10 points.

“It got ugly in the end,” Provenza said. “But when you take (out) two of the best players from both teams, sometimes that happens.”


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