Bridges’ last-second layup lifts Wildcats to win in 5A playoffs
The 6-foot-9 boy from Lincoln who had just hit a 3-pointer to tie it up closed in on Fruita Monument’s Drew Bridges, swooping with gangly strides to block Bridges’ layup.
As the clock struck one second in overtime on Friday, Bridges, with the big man from Lincoln now a step off his right shoulder, made a decision to simply leap high and straight and kiss the ball of the glass.
The ball found its way in, perhaps inches from the fingertips of Gabriel Vasquez, and host Fruita won the Class 5A state basketball tournament second round game, 59-57, in overtime.
A mass of Fruita fans roared and spilled down the rows of stands and joined together. Bridges, after glancing at the scoreboard to make sure his layup beat the buzzer, was vacuumed by the mob.
Dave Fox, Fruita’s head coach, leaned on the scorer’s table, the emotional swings of coming back from being down eight in the second quarter, to losing a lead when up 10 in the fourth quarter, allowing Fox to stand on his own no longer.
“I can’t even think right now,” Fox said.
He has time to regroup until Tuesday, when No. 3 Fruita Monument (21-3) travels to No. 2 Columbine (20-4) to play in the Sweet 16.
Bridges led Fruita with 16 points.
But his final deuce shocked the house. First, Vasquez, who scored 28 points for No. 6 Lincoln (13-11) and throughout showed Fruita an inside presence they had not faced this season, hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 57-57.
Fruita Monument’s Cody Daniels took an inbounds pass. Bridges ran downcourt to the left. Alex Padgett filled a lane to the right.
“I was thinking about calling timeout,” Fox said. “But why not let your two best players (Bridges and Padgett) figure the game out?”
Daniels, dribbling through a full-court press, crossing half court, looked at Padgett.
Lincoln’s Vasquez slid over to guard Padgett.
So Daniels whipped the ball to Bridges.
Maybe five feet from the hoop, Bridges caught the pass and made a decision.
“I just thought I have to go up strong,” Bridges said, “and not fall away. Just taking the challenge.”
Daniels, with his look-away at Padgett and pass to Bridges — the assist that saved the Wildcats’ season — made up for a technical foul when Fruita led 52-46 in the fourth quarter.
His ‘T’ seemed to spring Lincoln to a rally.
Because a minute later, after another Lincoln three-point play, this time by Vasquez, the Lancers trailed 52-50 with 3:15 left in regulation.
“I guess the referee thought I bounced the ball too hard,” said Daniels, who was frustrated after a foul call. “If we’d have lost, it would have been my fault. I’d have had to live with that. Probably couldn’t show my face at school. I’d probably be home-schooled.”