Tigers get stingy, top Moffat County
There were times Tuesday night when the Grand Junction High School boys basketball team played perfect defense.
The Tigers (7-4, 0-0 Southwestern League) held Moffat County scoreless in the first quarter on their way to a 47-26 victory.
Grand Junction, playing in only its second home game of the season, held a 10-0 lead after the first quarter. The Tigers’ tight man-to-man defense didn’t give up much more as they led 26-8 at halftime.
“With two minutes left, we had them at 18 points,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “I told them ‘I don’t care who you play, if you guard like that you are going to give yourselves a chance to win.’ “
Grand Junction wanted more than a chance after losing two tough games last weekend to Palmer Ridge and Fountain-Fort Carson. Johnson said the game against Moffat was important for correcting mistakes.
“We talked about how are we going to come back after last weekend,” Johnson said. “They didn’t feel good about how they played, and I didn’t think they played as hard as they could, but tonight they responded.”
The Tigers’ early surge was led by aggressive defense from Tyler Winder, Tommy Powers and Sam Morgan. The trio forced early turnovers to help the Tigers get easy baskets.
“We had some serious scoring droughts last weekend, so I told them when that happens, you have to generate some offense with your defense,” Johnson said. “Your defense can be your best offense, and I thought we did that at times.”
Also key in Grand Junction’s tough defensive play was Jesse Smith. The 6-foot-6 center roamed the paint, forcing Moffat to attempt outside shots and limiting the Bulldogs’ second-chance points.
“We had to make sure to give all of our effort tonight,” Smith said. “We wanted to come out strong.”
Smith finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Tommy Powers led all scorers with 12 points.
Grand Junction was able to take advantage of its large lead and used its bench players more. Players like Billy Whittenberg, Casey Burns, James Wilkinson and Sean Rubalcaba all played more minutes, and took advantage of it.
Whittenberg finished with seven points and hit two 3-pointers.
“All the guys that came off the bench gave us a good lift,” Johnson said. “We were able to get a lot of guys into the game which was huge.”
This weekend Grand Junction begins Southwestern League play, traveling to Montezuma-Cortez and Durango.
“Cortez and Durango is as tough of a road trip as there is,” Johnson said.