Workmanlike GJ

Grand Junction’s D.J. Wells blocks the shot of Palisade’s Zach Marengo in the first half of the Tigers’ 54-34 victory Tuesday night over the Bulldogs at Brownson Arena. Wells scored 17 points and had 13 rebounds in Grand Junction’s win. In addition to his block on Marengo, Wells added four more blocks in the third quarter.

A quick double team Tuesday night and Broderick Robinson was trapped. Or so it seemed.

The smooth-as-glass guard for Grand Junction was a couple steps past midcourt and in the perfect place for the Palisade trap to surround him. As the two defenders converged, Robinson calmly spotted the open man and whipped a 35-foot laser to Ben Volkmann for a layup and a 15-7 lead after one quarter.

It was the only double team Robinson faced on the night, and the Tigers turned in a workmanlike effort to pick up a 54-34 win over Palisade in a nonleague boys basketball game at Brownson Arena.

Robinson was a factor all over the court with his passing, dribbling and a scintillating leap to swat a shot off the backboard on a layup attempt in the second quarter. But he struggled with his shot throughout the first quarter and much of the second quarter. Then, he got hot.

He finished a three-point play to begin the second quarter, then hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 24-13. After swishing three free throws when he was fouled outside the arch, the lead was 29-15 at the half.

The slow shooting start from the field didn’t rattle Robinson.

“I think that’s the biggest change for me this year. Last year when I’d miss a shot, I’d lose my head,” he said, “This year, I just forget about it and keep moving forward.”

Grand Junction (15-2) methodically kept pushing the lead, using great ball movement and nifty interior passing.

Junior D.J. Wells was a beast in the paint. At 6-foot-7, he towered over every Palisade player and dominated down low, especially on the defensive end. He finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. He also blocked four shots in the third quarter.

He said it’s always fun playing Palisade, and there’s always some good-natured banter in what he calls a friendly rivalry.

“I have a lot of friends on Palisade, and I was really looking forward to this game. There was a lot of trash talking and mess-around talk,” he said with a smile. “It’s not like we hate each other. We’re all good. It’s a fun game when we play. It was just fun trash talk.”

Palisade (10-5) used defensive pressure and overall quickness to make runs, but the Tigers kept a safe lead throughout the second half.

The Bulldogs were aggressive, taking the ball to the hoop, which resulted in 12 points from the foul line.

Robinson finished with 20 points, including 12 in the first half.

Bobby DeSantis had eight points for the Bulldogs and hit a pair of 3-pointers. Zach Marengo, who gave Wells trouble with his quickness and ball fakes, added another eight points. Marques Combs also scored eight for Palisade.

“He’s got some good moves. He got me in the air a couple of times with his fakes,” Wells said about Marengo.

In the first quarter, Grand Junction jumped to a 9-2 lead when Trenton Soriano hit a 3-pointer. Marengo answered with a determined drive, but Wells scored the next four points.

Grand Junction point guard Greg Eccher missed the game with a contusion on his shin that he sustained in last week’s win over Fruita Monument.

“A couple more days and he should be OK,” Tigers coach Dutch Johnson said, adding it makes for a bizarre lineup when the senior is out. “He’s been our starting point guard for two years, and he plays 30 minutes a game, so it’s weird when he’s not out there.”

Johnson said he’s confident Eccher will be back for Friday night’s game against Montrose.


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