Tigers’ focus on boards pays off with win
Grand Junction’s James Wilkinson had one job in the second half of Tuesday night’s home game against Glenwood Springs.
The Tigers senior post player had to slow down Nick Ciani.
The Demons’ Ciani had 13 rebounds and eight points in the first half, and helped create opportunities for Glenwood Springs to score 14 second-chance points.
In the second half, Wilkinson limited Ciani had two rebounds and five points in Grand Junction’s 53-37 win.
“I was just boxing him out and playing good defense on him to shut him out,” Wilkinson said. “We had a good defensive half.”
The two players both were key contributors to their school’s football teams, and the inside battle got physical.
“James was huge that second half,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “Ciani is a tough, strong kid and James did a great job on him.”
Wilkinson said the Tigers put more of a focus on rebounding as a team in the second half.
“We are capable of a lot if we keep rebounding how we did in the second half,” Wilkinson said.
The Tigers’ rebounding in the first half needed some work, as evidenced by the Demons’ success crashing the offensive boards and creating baskets.
Ciani cut Grand Junction’s lead to 14-11 on an offensive put-back with 10 second left in the first quarter, but a last-second three-pointer by the Tigers’ Nick LeFebre put Grand Junction ahead 17-11 after one quarter.
Glenwood Springs outscored Grand Junction 10-5 in the second quarter including a Kevin Flohr 3-pointer to cut Grand Junction’s lead to 22-21 at halftime.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the third quarter with Grand Junction outscoring the Demons 7-5.
“We’ve struggled going on runs and you have to put consecutive stops together, which we did,” Johnson said. “But we weren’t converting on our end.” In the fourth quarter, the Tigers began converting.
Grand Junction pushed its lead to 36-26 with back-to-back baskets from Tyler Winder. The Demons answered with a Flohr 3-pointer and a Ciani inside basket, but a Nate Yanez 3-pointer pushed the Tigers’ lead back to 10 at 41-31 with three minutes remaining.
“In the fourth we started getting the stops and got transition buckets,” Johnson said. “We knew they would be there.”
Casey Burns had a consistent game for Tigers finishing with a team-high 14 points. Burns was 6 of 8 from the free-throw line and had three assists and seven rebounds. Yanez finished with 13 points.
“We needed a win, and they are a good team,” Johnson said. “We are now 4-4 and it’s a whole new season.”
Flohr led the Demons with 15 points.