Jaguars are on guard
Junior duo paces Rock Canyon on hardwood
Tyler Lopez and Mitch Lombard are two of a kind.
Both are junior Rock Canyon guards. Both can handle the basketball, penetrate, find open teammates, make steals off the dribble and score.
Lopez is more of a shooting guard and Lombard a point guard but neither has trouble effectively switching roles.
“They definitely have different skills,” said Rock Canyon coach Kent Grams. “I would argue they may be the best two tandem guards in the state. They are very hard to guard off the dribble.”
Statistics after 22 games confirm that the two Jaguar scoring leaders are versatile assets on a young Rock Canyon team.
The 5-foot-11 Garcia is averaging 15.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, two assists and three steals a game. Lombard, 6-1, is scoring at a 13.6 clip with four rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.3 steals per contest.
“They have a lot of things they still need to improve on,” said Grams. “They have to step up and hit shots when we need them to and they have to improve on the defensive end. They have come a long way.
“Last year we got beat up because we were so young. They have definitely matured. They understand the game better. They handle situations differently. They are doing better in the classroom. All around they’re getting better and better.”
In a Feb. 18 Continental League game at Heritage, Lombard took over the scoring role putting up 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting in a 70-64 come-from-behind win. Twenty-one of those points came from behind the arc as the junior was 7-of-8 from 3-point land. He also had nine assists, five rebounds and four steals.
Displaying exceptional court vision all night, one of Lombard’s assists was to Garcia for a fast-break basket that put Rock Canyon up to stay at 66-60 against the Eagles. Lombard and Taylor each connected on two free throws in the final waning seconds to ice the victory.
Garcia had 17 points against Heritage and during the final 25 seconds of the first half when the Jaguars were working for a last shot, he dribbled the ball back and forth, up and down before driving to the basket.
“Mitch is probably more of a point guard because he is very unselfish,” pointed out Grams. “The sign of a great player is how much better they make their teammates and Mitch does great job of getting teammates great looks.
“Tyler is more of a scorer and we need him to score. He hasn’t been shooting the ball as well as we need him to. Tyler is unselfish, he can play the point and he has maybe the best handles in the state. He’s got unbelievably quick hands. He does things that college kids can’t do. Tyler looks to shoot more. That’s why we reverse that role and put Mitch at the point guard. If we need somebody to bring it up, either of them can bring it up. They are both very special.”
Lombard says playing with Garcia makes the game easier.
“He opens up a lot of things,” said Lombard. “He’s always open on the court so he makes it easy. He takes a lot of pressure off of me. He does a lot of the scoring and it is easy to get him the ball all the time.
“My favorite thing to do is assisting off of the dribble, penetration. If the pass isn’t open I like to finish at the basket. Mainly I’m a pass-first point guard.”