Fruita Monument fast break on full display in runaway victory over Durango

Their identity is beginning to shed layers, one by one, and now Fruita Monument is established as a fast-breaking, head-snapping team.

Who is this Fruita Monument girls basketball team? It’s Lauren LaBonde in the first quarter on Saturday catching up to a fast break and, surging from behind, knocking the ball off a Durango’s guard’s leg and out of bounds, then snatching the inbounds pass running and hitting Sam Parks for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

Another layer to the ground. But even after the host Wildcats’ 52-18 win over the Demons, Fruita coach Richard Atkins doesn’t see the final product.

“We’re scoring a lot in transition, not in half-court,” Atkins said. “We want to go to a higher level than what you see now. More defensive pressure for more turnovers.”

Parks and LaBonde led Fruita (11-4, 2-0 Southwestern League) with 13 points apiece.

Kassidy Fair added eight for the Wildcats.

Fruita played an early season schedule that included teams now ranked No. 1 (Regis Jesuit) and No. 6 (Chaparral), both of which were losses. They’re tougher for it, Atkins said, and the Wildcats have won three straight games heading into Tuesday’s 6 p.m. game against Class 4A No. 9 Montrose.

On Saturday, Fruita had leads of 10-0, 19-2 and, early in the second quarter, 21-8.

That’s when Atkins subbed in his starting five — LaBonde, Parks, Fair, Vanessa Herrera, and Eden Laase — for his second team, a substitution method he’s showcased throughout the season.

Seconds later, LaBonde hit a 3-pointer, and Fruita led 24-8.

Atkins said he can substitute one set of five for another because the level of play does not drop drastically.

Another layer shed. Fruita is balanced and usually well-rested.

And the flair remains. After LaBonde’s second-quarter 3-pointer, Herrera blocked the shot of Durango’s Emily McCue, and, after a pair of passes relayed like a baseball double-play, Herrera was in position for a close shot. A “whoo” slipped from the crowd, and Parks rebounded Herrera’s miss and was fouled on a shot.

She hit two free throws, and Fruita led 29-10 at halftime.

Still, no Fruita mercy.

“We’ve had teams come back on us in the past,” Herrera said, “so we know how it feels.”

So, they keep the pressure on and keep on running.

“I think we’ve just got a lot of girls,” Laase said, “who can really run.”

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