Cardinals advance |

Cardinals advance

GRAND JUNCTION ” At times, players know the right adjustment to make things click.

So when Grand Valley guard Dylan Culver suggested using a backcourt press early in Saturday’s Class 2A boys regional playoff game against Nucla, Scott Kiburis, the Cardinals head coach, ran with the idea.

The press jump-started Grand Valley’s game and created an 11-0 run that paved the way to an easy 74-63 win, sending the Cardinals to this week’s 2A state playoffs.

“Actually, it was Dylan’s suggestion to run it, because we wouldn’t have if it was up to me,” Kiburis admitted of the shift in strategy. “(The press) got them to turn the ball over early. And we saw the nervousness it put in them, and we got confidence out of that.”

Add in three momentum-building treys from Culver and Sam McKinley to the mix, and Grand Valley was off and running. Field goals from Richard Gallegos, Matt Thompson plus another Culver 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter raised the Cardinals’ lead to 24-9.

The Mustangs challenged once, but the 9-0 spurt they fashioned in the second half didn’t have the legs to get them back in contention.

Eleven of Grand Valley’s 25 field goals came from three-point range. Culver had six of them in a 23-point performance. McKinley, who had 12 rebounds along with 16 points, drained four 3-pointers. “We just had to use our screens well and look for the open spaces,” McKinley said. “Then we just had to drive and kick the ball over to get people open and shoot the 3. Dylan was knocking them down, and everybody did a great job.”

Cardinal center Luke Braby took care of the middle, quietly tossing in 17 points while picking up a game-high 13 rebounds.

“Braby was a better player (than they had) inside, and he showed it early on,” Kiburis said.

The junior opened the second quarter by scoring a basket after missing on his first try. He ended the first half with another bucket, which gave the Cardinals a 24-point lead ” their largest margin in the contest. Pretty good for a squad that wasn’t on full operation mode offensively.

“I asked if we could start running a little offense so we could get some open shots,” said Kiburis to the team at halftime. “We didn’t do that much better running our offense in the second half, but we did have a lot of open looks on our fast break and on turnovers. We capitalized on that.”

The Mustangs’ Cole Zunich was the only Nucla player neither Kiburis nor anyone on the Cardinal bench had an answer for. Zunich was almost as good from long distance as Culver and McKinley were ” combined. Twenty-four of his game-high 28 points came from 3-point shots. But finishing a playoff game as the leading scorer doesn’t measure up against going to the state tournament.

“I’m real excited for them to go to the state tournament,” Kiburis said of the 2005-06 team. “We lost this game here last year. So getting an opportunity to go to the state tournament is really exciting. We have a good record, and I think we can play with those teams (in Pueblo).”

The accuracy of that assessment will be tested beginning Thursday. The 2A playoff state bracket is scheduled to be released by the Colorado High School Activities Association today.

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