Third time’s a charm? Fruita girls coach expects big things in third year at helm

Fruita Monument High School’s Sarah Hensley.



QUICKREAD

Fruita Monument girls at a glance

Coach: Dan Schmalz, 3rd year

Last season: 8-13, 4-6 SWL. Loss to Cherry Creek 60-50 in first round of playoffs.

Returning leading scorer: Taylor Johnson, Sr., 11.7 ppg.

First game: Dec. 2 vs. Palisade, 7 p.m.

Coach Dan Schmalz’s three wishes for Fruita’s season

• Out-rebound every body

• Outscore as many teams as possible

• Host a first-round playoff gameA look at the other teams in the Southwestern League

Durango

Coach: Klint Chandler (1st season)

Returning starters: Senior Neely Surmeier, senior Morgan Gurule, junior Aspen McKeever

Noteworthy: Few of the remainder of the team got much varsity time last season. Chandler, who was an assistant coach for four seasons, is high on his sophomore class but must pick a point guard from the group.

“If we can take care of the basketball, that’s the big thing,” Chandler said.

Montezuma-Cortez

Coach: Cameron Watkins

Returning starter: Junior Kelia Yanito

Noteworthy: Yanito averaged 10 points and eight rebounds last season. Her sister Keeley, also a junior, moves from sixth player to starter. Both are perimeter players. Senior point guard Shelby Janz will play a big role in the offense. The Panthers are still young but the starting five got significant playing time last season.

Montrose

Coach: Eric Sanchez (1st season)

Returning starters: Senior Hanna Bowden, junior Kaylee Walker

Noteworthy: Bowden is the Indians’ lone senior. With three senior guards having graduated, “Those are some big holes to fill,” Sanchez said. Sanchez moves up from assistant to head coach but Montrose’s entire coaching staff returns, including former head coach John Mraule, who is now an assistant.



Fruita Monument High School girls basketball coach Dan Schmalz is hoping year three is the breakout year.

In Schmalz’s first two seasons as Fruita’s coach, the Wildcats made the playoffs but lost in the first round.

But this season, with six seniors and solid underclassmen, Schmalz expects big things.

“Depth-wise and talent-wise, this is where I was hoping to be,” Schmalz said. “We haven’t had this much talent at Fruita for a while.”

Leading the way are two all-league players, senior Sarah Hensley and junior Taylor Johnson.

Hensley’s a good shooter who has the ability to put a lot of points on the board, as she showed last year, scoring 27 points against Grand Junction. Johnson was one of the leading scorers for the Wildcats, averaging 11.7 points per game. At 5-foot-11, Johnson has good finesse in the post, but Schmalz said she’s added to her game.

“Taylor has really expanded her game over the last year and half,” Schmalz said. “She had some injury problems her freshman year, and so she was in the post most of the time, but now she’s moved out and she’ll able to do both.”

What will make Fruita dangerous this year is depth. Seniors Katie Lewis and Caitlin Warneke will both play bigger roles, along with Stephanie Long and Keila Utu. Schmalz said sophomore Jessica Sinner is a tough player who could also see varsity playing time.

“We have multiple girls that can play multiple positions,” Schmalz said. “We have a lot more girls that can handle the ball in the open court. We are going to try to get the rebound and go, rather than trying to get it to the point guard every time.”

Fruita Monument has made a few adjustments to its traditional schedule, dropping the Farmington, N.M., tournament in favor of the Montrose tournament.


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