Both Grand Valley teams make state tourney | PostIndependent.com
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Both Grand Valley teams make state tourney

Joelle Milholm
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION ” The first step in successfully defending your state title is to get back to the state tournament.

Check.

With a 66-45 victory over Mancos in the Class 2A Western Regional Championship game on Saturday at Grand Junction High School, the Grand Valley boys basketball team will be going back to Pueblo to try and repeat as state champions.



“The regional game is the hardest one to play,” said Grand Valley head coach Scott Kiburis. “You wait all week and I am sure we were favored to win the game, so you have a little more pressure and you want to make sure your kids come out and play hard and play well.”

From the 8-0 lead the Cardinals acquired in the first 48 seconds, the Grand Valley win was never in question. Grand Valley played defense well, getting 10 steals ” a few in the opening minutes.



“I think the press really helps with that because they aren’t expecting it and I think it demoralizes them,” said senior Tyler Jensen.

On the other side of the court, the offense was clicking, as 10 different players scored and three hit double digits. While the Cardinals’ lead kept growing, some of the starters had to sit on the bench with foul trouble in the first half. Guys like Jensen, Colton Cowan and Jon Lantz. Good thing for Grand Valley, it has a deep bench to come in and take over.

“Derek Witt came in early and he must have been in nearly the whole half. He did a real good job running the show, William Waugh and Michael Shepard stepped up and had some big shots and played a great game,” Kiburis said. “That’s something we talked about ” we sub good for good, and not a lot of teams can do that.”

Things continued to work for Grand Valley as it took a 39-19 halftime lead. By the end, Waugh and Shepard each hit three 3-pointers and combined for 28 points in the contest, while Witt added seven. Jensen totaled 11.

After the game, Grand Valley (20-2) was named regional champion and the crowd, complete with Grand Valley cheerleaders and the school band, celebrated. For the players, they were happy, but not as excited as last year.

“It is not as big as last year because now we expected it of ourselves,” Jensen said.

The 2A state tournament will begin on Thursday at Colorado State University at Pueblo. The Colorado High School Activities Association will release the brackets, with the other seven qualifying teams, seeds and game times today.

GVHS girls earn third state berth in four years

As Whitney Ashcraft hoisted the Class 2A Western Regional Championship plaque over her head, drawing cheers from the red-and-white-decorated Grand Valley fans, tears of joy streamed down her face.

After the Cardinals’ 36-27 win over Mancos on Saturday, it was official ” the Grand Valley girls basketball team had just made their reservation at the state tournament.

“I was just really excited because we missed out on going to regionals and state last year,” said Ashcraft, a senior. “I can’t describe it. I am really happy, and we worked really hard for it.”

Saturday’s win erased the bitter feelings about exiting in districts as the Cardinals will be headed back to Pueblo next week ” making their third trip in four years.

“It is exciting to get back after a one-year hiatus,” said Grand Valley head coach Mike Johnson.

The Cardinals, who won the 2A Western Slope League Title, especially feel that way after they lost to Plateau Valley in the District 2 Tournament to miss out on the district title.

“We were pretty hard on ourselves last weekend when we didn’t win districts after winning league,” Johnson said. “I am just glad we were able to regroup and get to where we have been trying to go all year.”

After jumping out to a 14-9 lead in the first quarter against Mancos, the brakes were then slammed on the scoring for both teams. The game slowed down and even if the offense wasn’t working as well as Johnson would have hoped, the defense was. The Cardinal press gave Mancos fits and caused a big chunk of the Blue Jays’ 21 turnovers. Grand Valley even came up with 12 steals and forced one 10-second backcourt violation.

“Defensively, I think we were fantastic,” Johnson said.

Grand Valley led for the entire contest, but there were moments early in the fourth when Mancos cut its lead to as little as four. After missing six straight free throws, the Cardinals were finally able to capitalize from the line as Lauren Schubert hit two to put Grand Valley up 34-23 with a just over two minutes to go. Mancos didn’t threaten again.

Cardinal point guard Kendall Babler, who started the game with a 3-pointer, led the game in scoring with 16 points, while Ashcraft added 10.

Grand Valley (17-4) will begin the state tournament on Thursday.

“I am happy with it,” said Babler, a senior who moved to Parachute in the offseason after playing for three years in Rifle. “If we go over there and lose our first game, I’ll still be happy. If we win, I’ll be more happy. I am just happy we are going over there.”


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