In the zone
Fruita's Snyder takes advantage of Liberty defense in win
In the middle of Liberty’s zone defense Tuesday night was a large, open space in the high post.
For the Fruita Monument girls basketball team and leading scorer Riley Snyder, the soft zone presented ample offensive opportunity.
Snyder, a freshman, scored a career-high 26 points as the No. 7 Wildcats defeated No. 10 Liberty 63-57 in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs at Fruita Monument High School.
Fruita (14-10) travels Friday to face No. 2 Arapahoe (19-4) in a second-round game.
Operating almost exclusively out of the high post, Snyder shredded the Lancers’ defense. If she had a clear lane to the basket, she took it. No coverage? She shot it. If a Liberty defender tried to guard her, Snyder dished to a cutting teammate.
“I wanted this one for my team, and that’s what really fueled me,” Snyder said. “I was just trying to get into the paint and to the free-throw line.”
Fruita Monument coach Michael Wells called defending Snyder “a no-win situation.”
“They’d either have to stay off her in the post, and she’d shoot it. Or, if they come up to defend, she can pass to one of her teammates down low,” Wells said. “Riley usually makes the right decision.”
But dismantling a half-court zone was only part of the Wildcats’ offense.
Wells said he noticed on film Liberty (6-18) sent two or three players to harass players pulling down defensive rebounds.
It created plenty of scoring options in transition for Fruita.
“They sent those players to attack the ball, and we talked about being strong,” Wells said. “If we can be strong with the ball and make a good outlet pass, we’d have odd-numbered situations in transition. Our plan from there was to attack the basket as hard as we could. That led to foul trouble for them and got them off their rotation a little bit.”
The offensive success, something that hasn’t been consistent for Fruita this season, helped multiple players chip in points. All but one player who suited up for the Wildcats scored, and four players scored at least six points to total a season-high 63 points as a team.
It was nice to see the killer instinct, Wells said. “Come playoff time, that’s the way you’ve got to play,” Wells said. “You have to get to the line. In these close games, it’s a free-throw game at the end. The only way you’re going to get there is by attacking the basket. We were fortunate enough to get the calls and fortunate enough to make the shots.”
The offense also was fortunate because the Wildcats’ defense — what Wells said got the Wildcats to the playoffs — struggled early in the game.
After one quarter, Fruita Monument led 13-10 after Liberty took highly contested shots.
The Lancers’ shot selection was again questionable in the second quarter, shooting mostly contested 3-pointers, but a late run erased Fruita Monument’s double-digit lead. At halftime, the Wildcats led 26-22.
Harmony Pettis, Liberty’s leading scorer, erupted in the third quarter, hitting contested 3-pointers and runners in the lane.
Midway through the third quarter, the Lancers took their first lead since the opening moments of the game, going up 35-34.
When Pettis was subbed out later in the third quarter, Fruita Monument took back the lead, leading 42-40 through three quarters.
Pettis never regained her third-quarter heat, and Fruita Monument hit 12 of 19 free throws to pull away in the fourth quarter.
Pettis led Liberty with 20 points, and Brooke Shade had 17 points.