Volkmann keys GJ’s win over Fruita

With D.J. Wells in foul trouble Friday night and Fruita Monument pushing a run-and-gun offense, Ben Volkmann gave the Grand Junction boys basketball team the lift it needed on both ends of the court to run away from the Wildcats 71-35 at Grand Junction High School.

The junior guard, listed at 6-foot-1, was part of a five-guard set the Tigers used to counter Fruita Monument’s speed. The Wildcats pushed the pace on offense and defense, and that was enough to keep them within single digits just after halftime. But then Grand Junction poured on the defensively fueled offense. The Tigers limited Fruita Monument to only nine points in the third quarter and outscored the Wildcats 25-5 in the fourth quarter.

Volkmann finished with 15 points, almost tripling his previous season high. Up to this point in the season, he had averaged 2.7 points per game.

“It’s always fun to come out and have a game like that against Fruita,” Volkmann said. “I mean, they’re our rivals. Of course, it’s a great atmosphere, it’s a great rivalry. You just have to play. You get this atmosphere twice a year, and you have to just come out and play in it.”

Volkmann led the charge down the stretch with eight points in the fourth quarter. Tigers coach Dutch Johnson said Volkmann’s scoring numbers were outstanding, but it was his defensive play that was most impressive.

“He was good tonight on both ends of the floor, especially defensively,” Johnson said. “He did a great job defensively. Every year, we really like to have a guy who can give us a scoring lift off the bench, and Ben’s been that guy for us this year even though he hasn’t scored a lot lately.

“He’s always been so good for us off the bench. Tonight he was aggressive, he was attacking. Good for him, because he played a great game.”

Although Volkmann was the sparkplug on offense, Broderick Robinson led the Tigers with 16 points despite an up-and-down performance. Robinson struggled to find a rhythm, and he dinged his left knee during the fourth quarter, but he played well during big moments.

It was Robinson’s monster block that ignited the Tigers on defense. Near the end of the third quarter, Wildcats guard Tyrelle Peterson weaved into the lane and tried to toss up a runner. Robinson sprinted from the opposite wing, elevated over a crowd of players and palmed the ball against his wrist before swatting it away.

From there, the Grand Junction student section let out a deafening roar that rarely let up until the final whistle.

Crazy crowds and passionate play are what makes the Grand Junction and Fruita Monument rivalry special, Johnson said.

“That’s a cool rivalry, a special rivalry,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t matter if one of us is good or we’re both good or we’re both average. The atmosphere in that gym is a special one, and it was tonight. It’s awesome that the kids got to play in that game tonight.”

It wouldn’t be a rivalry game without a few injuries. Robinson received treatment on the bench when he re-aggravated a left knee injury after being knocked over during a drive. It’s an injury that has irritated Robinson this season, but it hasn’t caused him to miss any games. Greg Eccher was hit in the shin during the first quarter and didn’t return.

“I’ll tell you, that kid is probably 80 pounds, but he’s tough as nails,” Johnson said of Eccher. “He’ll get treatment this weekend, and he’ll be back.”

Matt Story led Fruita Monument with nine points before foul trouble derailed him in the fourth quarter, and Arturo Chavez chipped in seven points, mostly on hustle plays and offensive rebounds.


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