Kenzie Younker didn't get too many open looks Friday night, but when she swished a 15-foot jumper, the comeback was complete.
The bucket gave Grand Junction a 26-24 lead midway trough the third quarter and the Tigers never looked back, beating Fruita Monument 39-36 on the Wildcats' home court.
Younker's basket was followed by a 3-pointer by Laney Laffler, which triggered a robust reaction from the Grand Junction bench and crowd.
The Wildcats (11-5, 1-1 Southwestern League) led by 10 in the first quarter and 20-13 at halftime, but the Tigers (10-4, 1-0) clawed their way back with aggressive defense and key shooting, and iced the game with solid free-throw shooting down the stretch.
"We didn't played badly in the first half, we fouled too much but we have a tendency to do that," Grand Junction coach Sam Provenza said with a grin. "We took good shots in the first half, we just didn't make them, so I just told them to keep doing what you're doing.
"We took the same shots in the second half, we just made more shots."
It was the first win over the Wildcats for the Grand Junction seniors.
"It's an awesome accomplishment. We've just gotten better every year and to see that growth is a really good feeling," Younker said.
Facing a near-constant double-team in the paint, Younker was patient with her offense and led the Tigers with 13 points.
"I really started focusing on my rebounding and my defense, and I just counted on my teammates to score," Younker said.
Early in the third quarter, Taylor Rubalcaba and Younker hit baskets to cut the lead to 22-17. Rubalcaba then drained a 3-pointer, followed by a steal and layup by Angela Paradiso to tie the game at 22-22.
After a layup by Gabby Deters, Grand Junction increased its lead to 31-25.
An offensive rebound and putback by Fruita's Emily Roberts cut the lead to 31-28 and the Wildcats forced a turnover to get the ball back. The Wildcats immediately turned the ball back over — one of a number of opportunities they couldn't capitalize on late in the fourth quarter.
Callie Allen, who scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half, hit a jumper in the paint, then two free throws to tie the game at 32-32 with 2 minutes remaining.
Deters hit three free throws and Younker two to give the Tigers a 37-32 lead.
Rubalcaba and Deters both finished with eight points, and Deters hit four of six free throws in the fourth quarter.
Grand Junction's defense focused on limiting Fruita Monument's 3-point shots — the Wildcats didn't make a single long-distance shot.
"We did a really good job on defense, I don't think they hit a 3-pointer and they are pretty good at that," Provenza said.
In the first half, the Wildcats played good defense with Rosa Lopez playing a scrappy game. The senior had seven of her eight points in the first half, and her hustle for a loose ball led to an Allen layup and a 14-6 lead in the first quarter.
A jumper by Kloe Bates gave the Wildcats its largest lead at 18-8 in the first quarter.
The always low-key Provenza said he didn't ask the team to do anything different in the second half.
"We had a game plan and the kids executed it. I didn't do a whole lot in the second half but sit back and watch," he said.
Fruita Monument 73, Grand Junction 35: The Wildcats (13-4, 2-0 SWL) won their sixth straight game behind an up-tempo offense and 19 points from Marcus LaBonde and 15 from Reilly Flinn.
Fruita Monument got a balanced attack, with 10 players scoring, but only two in double figures.
The Wildcats turned the game into a blowout in the third quarter, outscoring the Tigers 20-3 for a 56-28 lead headed to the fourth quarter.
Grand Junction (1-14, 0-1) played a solid first half and only trailed 36-25 at halftime. Beau Thornton led the Tigers with 13 points.