Fruita shows off fast-tempo offense in tourney opener

It’s the future of girls basketball, Fruita Monument girls basketball coach Richard Atkins said, and the Wildcats used the up-tempo, fast-breaking style of offense Thursday to defeat Fountain-Fort Carson 68-43.

For the Wildcats (3-1), it was a good way to play their first game of the Wildcat Invitational at Fruita Monument High School.

The Wildcats, without starting guard Lauren LaBonde, who will return for the Wildcats’ 6:30 p.m. game today against Columbine, were led by Sam Parks’ 20 points.

Katelyn Kemp led the Trojans (1-3) with 11 points, including three 3-pointers.

Like many of the Wildcats’ guards who would stand outside the 3-point line for an outlet pass before passing down low once again, Parks also streaked downcourt and found many open layups. Pass, pass, pass, layup: It’s how Atkins wants it. And the players seemed to love it.

“We have a lot of depth and quick guards, and we’re a well-rounded team,” Parks said.

Parks knew she’d have to put points on the board without LaBonde. Still, Fruita came one basket short of its goal.

“Seventy points, here we come,” said Kassidy Fair, who had five points. “That’s our goal.”

Of course, players such as Fair love playing the up-tempo game, which Atkins has installed in his first year, that could soon help the Wildcats reach their goal of 70 points in a game,

“I love it,” Fair said. “I think we’re all seeing the floor real well, and it’s really starting to pay off for us. We’ve definitely been working on our ball-handling and just being able to look up while we’re coming down the floor, so we can see players ahead of us and get high-percentage shots.”

But Atkins knows Fruita must make more easy shots. For example, on a third-quarter sequence, Vanessa Herrera blocked a shot, and Eden Laase, who finished with eight points, grabbed the loose ball and made an outlet pass to Mariah Love. What followed was four missed shots, although each was contested, and three offensive rebounds before Fair was fouled on a shot.

Fruita, with one more basket, would have eclipsed its highest point total of 68 last season in a win over Central.

“I think this up-tempo game is the future of girls basketball,” Atkins said, “That’s the way the boys evolved. And I’m kind of a North Carolina fan; old (Tar Heels men’s coach) Dean Smith, his philosophy was: You try to give different defensive looks, so when you come to play us you have to prepare for all of those.”

Tigers ride first half to win

The first three quarters was the orchestra of cuts and passes and finished layups that makes the Grand Junction High School girls basketball team go.

Shafer Rubalcaba and Sydni Brandon had 11 points apiece as the Tigers (5-0) defeated Air Academy 43-30.

Grand Junction plays Carbon County, Utah, at 5 p.m. today.

Brandon and Elisha Jahnke, who had seven points, constantly fed the post for Rubalcaba and Sarah Wilkinson for easy layups as Grand Junction took a 31-12 halftime lead.

“It was just everyone looking for each other, and we started playing for each other and connecting,” Jahnke said. “It’s just fun. You don’t think about it, and everything clicks.”

Air Academy featured 6-foot-1 Kassady Huffman, who scored 22 points, going 8 of 10 from the free-throw line.

Behind Huffman, the Kadets (2-2) managed to regroup and, although sometimes going into a full-court press, hold Grand Junction to eight second-half points — zero in the fourth quarter.

But the Tigers already had put the game away, scoring 14 field goals, most of them layups.

“We just tried to look for open spots,” Rubalcaba said. “(Air Academy) just didn’t see me down there. Just fake one way and go the other.”

Also for Grand Junction, freshman Tori Catlett had six points.

Carbon County beats Columbine

Jennee Martinez had 10 points and Shelby Croasmun added nine as Carbon County, Utah, defeated Columbine 46-30 for its first win of the season in four tries.

Bridge Snow had a team-high 10 points for Columbine (1-2), which took a 5-2 lead after the first quarter.

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