Tigers, Wildcats should give each other strong competition

Fruita Monument’s Taylor Johnson, left, and Jessica Sinner are looking forward to the Wildcats’ game Wednesday against rival Grand Junction.

Usually, coaches will do just about anything to avoid playing a league opponent in an early nonleague game.

The Grand Junction and Fruita Monument high school girls basketball teams, though, are taking the opposite approach, playing Wednesday in the first day of the Lady Wildcat Basketball Tournament at Fruita Monument.

“We thought competition-wise it would be good for both teams,” Fruita Monument coach Dan Schmalz said. “Hopefully it’ll draw a good crowd to an early season game.”

The game is a 7 p.m. tipoff, giving the teams the chance to get a victory against a 5A team for their potential playoff resumes.

“The girls get really amped up any time they see we are playing the Tigers,” Schmalz said. “They’ve been thinking about this for a while.”

Grand Junction won both regular-season meetings last year.

“It’s such an early game for everyone, so we are still trying to figure out rotations,” Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said.

“So it’ll be like any other preseason game, but the kids are just familiar with each other,” she said.

Grand Junction and Fruita Monument played each three times during the summer and play Jan. 14 and Feb. 4 in addition to Wednesday’s game.

“A rivalry is a rivalry,” Provenza said. “It’s Fruita-Junction and it’s going to be Fruita-Junction three times this year.”

Both teams have high expectations for the season, but had mixed results during the opening weekend.

Fruita Monument split last weekend, defeating Niwot 70-62 on Friday before losing to Mullen 71-49 on Saturday.

Post player Taylor Johnson is averaging 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks after the two games. Junior point guard Jessica Sinner averaged 7.5 points and 4.5 assists over the two games, and said the Wildcats made progress.

“We went to Denver and competed,” Sinner said. “We have to play together and this game will prepare us for the entire year.”

Grand Junction is coming off a 1-2 weekend at the Dakota Ridge tournament. The Tigers defeated Ponderosa 62-25, but dropped their final two to Bellevue East (Neb.), 53-39, and Horizon, 49-45.

The Tigers also lost their starting guard/forward, junior Jamie Derrieux. The three-year starter broke her right hand in Friday’s game against Bellevue.

“She was trying to split defenders at the free-throw line, and got her leg caught with someone and (her hand) bent back when she landed,” Provenza said. “There is a break and they are going to try and cast it (today).”

Provenza said Derrieux is expected to be out six weeks, which puts her return right around the beginning of the league season in mid-January.

The Tigers have had to make some adjustments with Derrieux sidelined. Kricket Adleman and Camille Goodsell will both assume larger roles.

“The kids are responding,” Provenza said. “We have kids coming off the bench with a lot of experience.”

The Tigers play two Utah schools, American Fork and Carbon County, in the Fruita Tournament.

“Since Jamie’s out it’ll be a different dynamic,” Sinner said. “But I’m still really excited because it’s Junction.”


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