When Andy Smith made two early baskets sandwiching a score by Joseph Gruss on Saturday, it seemed like the Grand Junction High School boys basketball team had found start it needed in the midst of a difficult season.
A 6-0 lead five minutes into the game, sparked by tenacious defense, presented the Tigers real hope of springing an upset against Glenwood Springs (7-3).
Over the course of the next 8 minutes of play, the Demons responded with a 22-0 run. Just like that, those hopes were gone.
John Iuele, who sparked the run with his team’s first basket after five minutes, scored 17 points as Glenwood Springs tamed the Tigers 56-39.
“Consistency is a struggle for us at this point,” said Grand Junction coach Isaac Madison. “We’re not playing well enough consistently in any phase.”
Iuele made two 3-pointers during the Demons’ run, the first cutting the deficit to 6-5 in the first quarter and the second a bank-in to push the run to 16-0.
Gruss led Grand Junction (1-11) with 13 points and Smith added 11. The two helped the Tigers chip their way back into the game after trailing 29-12 at halftime.
Gruss and Smith combined for three baskets, including a 3 on the left wing by Gruss, as the Tigers opened the second half on an 11-2 run to trim the deficit to 31-23. Later in the quarter, Gruss converted a three-point play to pull the Tigers within single digits.
“We go on these mini-runs and then we shoot ourselves in the foot and give up something in transition or we foul,” Madison said. “It feels like all the momentum’s going your way, but you keep having these lapses and it comes back to bite you.
“We play hard at times, we’re just not consistent.”
Grand Junction got within single digits a third time, when Blaine Butler hit a free throw to make the score 44-35. However, despite the Tigers’ second-half tenacity, they could never get closer than eight points.
“The first two minutes of the game, when they went man, I thought we handled that well,” Madison said. “We got out to a six-point lead, then we just got outplayed the rest of the way. We had stretches where we did good things, and then you have a breakdown, a mental mistake and you let them right back in it.”