An inside job
Herrera's work in paint lifts Wildcats past Warriors
Vanessa Herrera did so much work in the paint Friday that Picasso would have been proud.
The senior post player scored a game-high 19 points to lead the Fruita Monument girls basketball team to a 43-32 Southwestern League win over Central.
Herrera is always the center of the offense for the Wildcats, and coach Michael Wells wants to pound the ball inside whenever possible.
Herrera scored six points in the first half before sitting out a long stretch when she picked up her second foul. When Central got into foul trouble, the Wildcats went inside to Herrera every time down the floor.
“Their bigs got into foul trouble, and I thought we had a mismatch there,” Wells said. “It’s Basketball 101: You take advantage of where you have an advantage, and Vanessa was great tonight, and she finished.”
Fruita Monument (10-12, 6-3 SWL) had to deal with its own foul trouble, which limited the minutes for Herrera and senior Kassidy Fair, especially in the first half.
Fair, who sat out most of the first half with two fouls, keyed a 7-0 run to start the third quarter with five quick points on a drive for a basket and three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-point attempt. The run gave the Wildcats a 23-14 lead, but then Fair and Mariah Love picked up their third fouls and went to the bench.
That’s when Central (5-17, 2-7 SWL) made a run.
The Warriors’ D’Kota Brodie and Cassidy Bryant were on the bench with four fouls, but Tyler Hays took over offensively midway through the third quarter. Aggressively taking the ball to the hoop, the junior scored six points on a drive and four free throws, then hit a baseline jumper to tie the score at 23-23 with 3:25 remaining in the third.
That’s when Herrera and the Wildcats did their damage in the paint and took the momentum back.
Taking well-placed entry passes, Herrera scored 10 straight points, the final two coming on a solid up-and-under move to give the Wildcats a 33-23 lead.
Bryant scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 33-28, but the Wildcats got five points from Fair and pulled away.
When Fair and Herrera each picked up two fouls in the first half, Wells decided to not risk having them on the floor again until the second half.
“It changes the way we play, and it puts people in spots they aren’t used to,” Wells said about the foul trouble. “But I tried to buy as much time as I could with the lead, so we could save them for the second half.”
Fruita took a 9-0 lead to start the game, with Taylor Eatwell scoring five points.
Central then worked its way back into the game with Taryn Smith scoring five points in the half, and when the Warriors’ Shanelle Southam put in an offensive rebound, Fruita’s lead was cut to 16-14 at the intermission.
Love said foul trouble is just part of the game, and the Wildcats had to adjust.
“We just had to stay positive and go with the flow,” she said. “It changed the way we played, but the girls off the bench really stepped up.”