Yanez’s big fourth quarter lifts Grand Junction past Smoky Hill

In just his first game with his new team, Nate Yanez made a big difference.

The Grand Junction High School senior led the Tigers to a 48-45 victory Thursday over Smoky Hill in the Warrior Challenge at Central High School. The Buffaloes ended the Tigers’ season last year in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament.

“It’s great,” Yanez said. “It’s fun building a relationship with all the guys on the team. I love being at Junction.

“Sometimes you have to take the shot. Coach put me in that position and you have to knock it down.”

Yanez, who moved from Palisade, led the Tigers (1-0) with 15 points. He had nine in the fourth quarter. Sean Rubalcaba added 12.

“That’s huge, especially the first game to find a way to win,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “I think a lot of it has to do with the success of our football team. They know how to win. That’s what happened down the stretch.

“It wasn’t pretty, but we got stops when we needed them late.”

Nico Perry led Smoky Hill (0-1) with 19 points. Denis Terzic had 12.

“I thought (the Buffaloes) were better (than last year),” Johnson said. “They are well-coached and very disciplined. I think they will win a lot of games this year.”

Smoky Hill gave the Tigers fits, forcing 12 turnovers in the first half, yet, the teams were tied 20-20 at halftime.

The Buffaloes, though, struggled shooting the ball, making 9 of 28 shots in the first half.

“They switched up their defense quite a bit,” Johnson said. “Every possession down the court they gave us a different look. Sometimes they have a one-guard front on their zone, sometimes a two-guard, then they go man. They did a good job switching it up on us and we didn’t do a good job adjusting to what they were doing.”

Smoky Hill continued to frustrate the Tigers in the third quarter. This time the Buffaloes were able to take advantage, building a six-point lead. Smoky Hill led 36-31 after three quarters.

Grand Junction, though, didn’t quit.

Yanez, who hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to keep the Tigers close hit another 3 to open the fourth quarter. He scored on a putback a few possessions later then Tyler Winder hit a 3-pointer to get Grand Junction within one. Yanez scored on a drive with a minute and a half left to keep the Tigers close. Rubalcaba hit two free throws with 1:07 left to give Grand Junction its first lead since the first half. Yanez hit two more foul shots to seal the victory.

Fountain 102, Central 35

The sixth-ranked Trojans shut out the Warriors for more than eight minutes in the first half as they rolled to a 30-point lead midway through the second quarter.

Central’s Trent Coleman scored a field goal less than three minutes into the game to get within one point and the Warriors didn’t score again until Taylor Sanchez hit two free throws with 3:53 left in the second quarter.

Five players scored in double figures for Fountain-Fort Carson, led by Chris Davis with 37.

Zach Padilla led Central with 10 points.

Carbon County (Utah) 63, Palisade 54

Palisade fell behind by as much as 10 points early in the second half, but climbed its way back throughout the third quarter.

Caleb Hall tied the game at 36-36 with an offensive rebound, then found Collin Girardi for the Bulldogs’ next two scores.

The offensive run brought the Bulldogs to within one, 41-40, at the end of the third quarter.

Carbon pulled away in the fourth quarter behind 3-pointers from Clay Finkbiner that helped push the Dinos’ lead to 51-42.

Palisade made one final run to cut the lead to 57-52 on a Kane Gunther layup with 1:10 left, but Carbon held the Bulldogs off with free throws.

“Proud of the kids for not giving up,” Palisade coach Steve Phillips said. “But free throws were the difference, we have to make some free throws.”

The Bulldogs finished 11 of 15 from the free-throw line, but only 2 of 5 in the fourth quarter.

The Dinos shot 16 of 23 from the line and were led by Clint Finkbiner, who finished with 14 points.

Palisade had a big night from Gunther, who had 20 points, nine rebounds and five steals. Hall added 10 points and four assists.

“We’ve been working hard and we have to find out where we are at,” Phillips said. “With the competition we’ll see this weekend, we’ll do that.”


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