Tigers use hot start to run past Montezuma-Cortez

The Grand Junction High School boys basketball team left little doubt Friday it can score in bunches.

The Tigers (7-4) got their Southwestern League season off to fast start with an 80-56 victory over Montezuma-Cortez.

Grand Junction started quickly against the Panthers (5-3), at one point hitting five of six field goals.

The Tigers entered the game with a defensive game plan of trying to stop the Panthers’ 6-foot-5 junior post, Micah Conrads, by putting two players on him.

“Coming in we didn’t know they had four guys who could shoot from perimeter,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said.

They quickly learned as Cortez was matching Grand Junction shot for shot.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Everett Robinson and Tommy Powers allowed Grand Junction to take a 24-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“Once one of us gets 2s and 3s, all of us feed off it and start getting shots,” Robinson said.

He missed his first three tries but found his shot soon enough, scoring 11 points by quarter’s end on the way to a game-high 29.

“I just had to get warmed up a bit,” Robinson said.

The Tigers began to clamp down defensively in the second quarter, stretching their lead to 40-31 at the half.

Cortez made a more concerted effort to work the ball inside to Conrads in the third quarter as he scored six points.

At that point, the Tigers were successful in putting pressure on the Panthers’ guards, allowing Conrads fewer chances to get the ball inside.

Cortez pulled to within 46-38 with just under three minutes remaining in the third, but the
Tigers went on another scoring binge, including a pair of 3-pointers by Geoff Baldwin, who finished with 17 points. After that, Grand Junction never looked back.

Robinson and Baldwin have been the go-to players offensively all season.

“We’ve been talking (about) needing a third scorer,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t have to be one guy.”

It wasn’t as four other Tigers scored at least six points, including Powers’ nine points off the bench.

“I didn’t feel like we missed a stop when we (substituted),” Johnson said, “and they’re so unselfish to find open guys.”

Offensively, “I think we’re just executing better,” Johnson said of the improvement from the start of the season.

Perhaps most impressive was that the Tigers didn’t commit their first turnover until three minutes had expired in the third quarter.

“To start the season, that was a huge concern,” Johnson said.

It’s no longer as Grand Junction gave the ball back to the Panthers only four times.

The Tigers complete their weekend at 1:30 this afternoon against Durango.


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