By Nathaniel Smith • The Times-Independent
The Grand County High School girls basketball team started its season with a big win over Green River, but then faced a tough week with four road games that all ended in defeat for the Red Devils.
On Tuesday, Nov. 20, Grand traveled to Green River to start the season off with a game against the Pirates. The Red Devils got right to work, building a comfortable 19-2 lead by the end of the first quarter. Three of Grand’s seniors scored in double digits as the team cruised to a 60-25 win. Hannah Owen lead Grand’s scoring effort with 25 points while shooting a stellar 67 percent from the field. Veda Gritts was a formidable presence in the paint as she scored 15 points and pulled down 23 rebounds. Mercedes Zunich had a good game on both sides of the floor, scoring 12 points, dishing out five assists and swiping three steals.
Grand spent a large portion of the next week on the road with a game at Monticello on Tuesday and three games at the Carbon Invite in Price over the weekend. A rash of injuries hampered the Red Devils and prevented the team from appearing at full strength against tough opponents. By the week’s fourth game, Grand was missing three senior players: Owen, Gritts and Annabelle Garrett, said Coach Randy Martin.
The series of road games began on Nov. 27 with a trip south to Buckaroo territory. The Red Devils built a small lead in the first quarter, going ahead 13-11. However, Monticello stalled Grand’s offense in the second and took a 19-23 lead going into halftime. Grand kept the game close in the third, but a big fourth quarter for the Buckaroos gave them a 38-56 win over the Red Devils. Again, Owen led Grand in scoring with 16 points and in rebounds with 15. Gritts recorded her second double-double in as many games with 10 points and 13 boards while also swatting away three shots.
Unfortunately, Garrett twisted her knee against Monticello, sidelining her for the foreseeable future, according to Martin. The bad luck continued the next day at practice when Gritts sprained her ankle during a scrimmage, causing her to miss all three games over the weekend. The two injuries left Grand without either one of its 6-foot-1 players.
Grand’s three game stretch on Carbon’s court began with a match against South Summit on Thursday, Nov. 29. The Red Devils struggled on offense early, scoring only 10 points in the first half as the Wildcats got out to a big lead. Grand improved in the second half, but the margin was too large to overcome and South Summit came away with a 37-53 win. Owen led the team with 20 points and seven rebounds while Zunich added 12 points and a couple of assists.
The next day, Grand faced off with the tournament’s host, the Carbon Dinos. Carbon’s defense was stifling, and Grand’s troubles started early when Owen collided with a few Carbon players in the game’s opening minute, bruising her knee and forcing her to sit out for the rest of the weekend. The Dinos held Grand’s field goal percentage to only 18 percent as they went on to win 23-66. Zunich and senior Josie Camps lead Grand’s scoring with nine points each.
Grand closed the tournament with a game against the Union Cougars from Roosevelt on Saturday, Dec. 1. Union’s offense was highly efficient, putting up 52 points in the first half. Grand was unable to keep up as the Cougars marched to a 26-80 victory. Zunich and Camps accounted for most of Grand’s points, scoring 12 and 11 points respectively.
Coach Randy Martin said the team was licking its wounds after a tough weekend, but he was able to see a silver lining through all the injury troubles. “The good news is it gave other girls on the team a lot of opportunity to play, to learn and to experience varsity basketball,” Martin said. “We’ll need those players as the season goes on, so it was a great experience for them,” he added.
Martin noted that he “was really happy with our two senior guards, Josie Camps and Mercedes Zunich. They stepped up as leaders of the team and really played with a lot of poise and confidence.”
Following the rough road trip, Grand has a week to practice, recover from injuries and prepare for its first home game against the Gunnison Valley Bulldogs on Saturday, Dec. 8. Varsity is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. On Tuesday, Dec. 11, the Monticello Buckaroos will come to Moab for a rematch at 7 p.m.