Up-tempo Tigers: Grand Junction uses speed, transition game to top Chatfield

Grand Junction’s Tyler Winder, center, shoots Wednesday night over Chatfield’s Dean Wright, 3, despite being fouled by Nate Rust, 40, during the second half of the Tigers’ Class 5A playoff victory. Winder had 35 points as Grand Junction advanced to face top-seeded Arapahoe on Saturday.

A few moments before tip-off, Grand Junction High School boys basketball coach Dutch Johnson told his team it didn’t want to get in a track meet with Chatfield.

Turns out, the Tigers can run, too.

Grand Junction broke up the Chargers’ trap defense Wednesday night, rolling to a 84-57 victory in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs at Grand Junction High School. It was the Tigers’ highest point total this season.

“I told them before the game we can’t turn this into a track meet, up-tempo game,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “We’ve got to slow it down and control the tempo. I think that (fast) tempo actually played in our favor.

“To come out and to beat them the way we did feels good.”

The Tigers (17-6) advance to play Saturday against Ray Ball region top seed Arapahoe (22-1) Tip-off time will be announced later.

Senior guard Tyler Winder was the main beneficiary of the up-tempo game, scoring a career-high 35 points to lead the Tigers, who avenged their loss to Chatfield (13-11) earlier this season. Sean Rubalcaba added 16 points.

“Redemption is always nice,” Winder said. “Anytime a team beats you, you want another shot at them. We came out and played right from the get go.

“It feels great, but we’re not looking to stop now. We’re looking to play Arapahoe on Saturday and give it the best we’ve got.”

Grand Junction focused on beating the Chargers’ trapping, pressure defense, which forced the Tigers into 25 turnovers in their December meeting, and it lead to a bountiful of easy buckets on the other end.

“We turned the ball over 25 times against them the first time,” Johnson said. “I thought we did an unbelievable job tonight handling their pressure all game. It ended up leading to easy buckets.

“That’s one thing we talked about and worked on this week, getting guys to the right spots, clearing early and getting rid off (the ball) before the trap got there. We were flashing to the right spots and we had numbers at the basket all night long.”

Point guards Nate Yanez and Broderick Robinson handled the initial pressure and Casey Burns drew the defense, leaving Winder open to bury six 3-pointers.

“I know Casey (Burns) didn’t play much tonight, but when he was in there, he was able to get in the gaps and got Tyler a lot of good looks,” Johnson said.

Burns sat most of the game on the bench in foul trouble and eventually fouled out. Four of them were player control fouls.

Winder hit two 3-pointers early to spark the Tigers to a 13-6 lead in the first quarter. The senior guard hit three more in the second quarter as Grand Junction went on a 17-5 run to take a 33-21 lead. The Tigers led 35-27 at halftime.

Grand Junction started the second half on an 8-2 run to push its lead to 14 points. By the end of the quarter, the Tigers led 51-35.

The pace picked up even faster in the fourth quarter with both teams nearly equaling their first half point totals.

Dean Wright led Chatfield with 15 points.


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