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Cards ready no matter who’s in their lineup

Phil Sandoval

The lack of a consistent starting lineup hasn’t bothered the Grand Valley girls basketball team much. PARACHUTE – The lack of a consistent starting lineup hasn’t bothered the Grand Valley girls basketball team much. The Cardinals have battled injuries and illness all season, but they still enter Saturday’s Class 2A region championship game against Dolores with an 18-4 record and league and district titles under their belts.But injuries to key personnel still gives Grand Valley coach Mike Johnson jitters.”I think it’s been a lot harder on me than it has been on the kids,” Johnson said. “I worry about it constantly – who we’re going to have against each opponent. One kid’s out, and the others pick it up. It’s really been as simple as that.”So it doesn’t faze the Cardinals much that Jamie Vance, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, might not be available to play against the Bears (14-7) Saturday morning at Grand Junction High School.The winner advances to next week’s 2A state playoffs in Pueblo.Before last week’s district title game against Hayden, Vance and Wynette Jackson had to be scratched because of illness and injury. The Cardinals responded by downing the Tigers 39-24.”That was neat to see the kids step up,” Johnson said. “I hope we have the same attitude this week.” Vance, who is nursing a severe case of strep throat, is questionable for Saturday, as is Jackson.But Grand Valley will stick with what has gotten them to this point.”We might not be the kind of team that puts up a lot of points,” Johnson said, “but we do play great defense. Defensively, we’re going to make it tough. There haven’t been too many teams that have liked the way we’ve played defense on them.”Grand Valley has yet to allow more than 48 points against a 2A foe.On offense, the Cards are careful.”We don’t turn the ball over very often,” Johnson said. “We only average 13 turnovers a game, which is very, very low for a girls team, especially on the 2A level.”When it comes to production, Grand Valley turns to Julianne Jones (8.3 ppg) and Jessica Cielatka (6.2), particularly if Vance’s 17.4 points per game remain on the sideline.Dolores counters with LaRissa Gustafson, who averages 11.4 points. Audrey Weitzel checks in at 9.7 per game.”Dolores is a solid team, and there are some things we have to do better (than last week) against them,” Johnson said. “But, we still have to be who we are. And we look strong.”It’s been difficult this year. It’s been a juggling act all season,” he added. “If you can juggle that much stuff and still end up 18-4 at this point of the season, and become league, district and hopefully regional champs, I think you’ve got something special.”


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