Columbine too strong for Fruita in Sweet 16

LITTLETON — Three can be a lonely number.

And that certainly was the case for the Fruita Monument boys basketball team in Tuesday’s Class 5A Sweet 16 state basketball tournament game at Columbine High School.

But why three this time around? That’s because only three Fruita players scored in the Wildcats’ 61-41 loss to Columbine. 

Drew Bridges, who has averaged 22 points a game this season, was held to 16. Alex Padgett led the Wildcats with 17 and Spencer Fair scored the remaining eight. Columbine moves into the Final Eight with a 21-4 record.

Perhaps the evening was in the cards from the beginning — Fruita (21-4) scored only five points in the opening quarter, followed with nine in the second to trail 25-14 at the intermission.

Things didn’t get better in the third quarter for that matter, as the Wildcats could only muster eight points and found themselves trailing 39-22 heading into the final quarter.

“I don’t know what the deal was,” Bridges said. “We had a little practice today and we looked great. Coming into the game we were expecting a better performance than this defensively. I really don’t know what happened, but I guess things like this do happen sometimes.

“At the beginning of the game we had that early lead (5-2) and we just turned the ball over the next couple of times up the court without scoring. They come down and score, they get that bigger lead and that really hurt us right there.

“Credit to them, a good ballclub and we expect them to continue their journey in state. I just love our guys and we get so much from our coaches. Thanks to all of them.”

Bridges was the only Fruita player to score in the third quarter until Padgett hit a couple of free throws with 1:11 left. By then, the game was out of hand, with the Wildcats trailing 38-22.

“We just came out flat and did not play to our full potential in that first half,” said Padgett, who had 11 points in the fourth quarter. “It was too late with too many turnovers. We didn’t set good screens and we just were not ourselves tonight. The pace was quick, but we’ve played quicker teams. We wanted to get out and run, but it just didn’t happen tonight. It was a good season, but not a good way to end.”

For Fruita coach Dave Fox, it was a night of complete frustration. It was just hard to believe his team could go three quarters without hitting double figures in any of them.

“If you watched us for 23 games you would see that we play a lot better than this,” Fox said. “I just don’t know what happened out there, I don’t have an answer. We came out kind of flat, we didn’t run screens very well — we really got outplayed all the way. Mentally, physically, we just got beat. They were a better team tonight.”

“It’s really disappointing. Such a good year to end this way as we have played so much better than this.

“It’s just a disappointing evening all the way around. They played Drew pretty tough inside. Basically he has a lot of moves and they didn’t fall for any of his moves. They did a good job preparing for us, give them all the credit.”

And controlling Bridges was in the game plan in the beginning for Columbine.

“The focus of our defense was Bridges and we wanted everyone to know where he was and it worked out,” said Nick Carpinello, who led the Rebels with 25 points. “We normally don’t score a lot, we rely on our defense and that’s what kept us in when our offense was not there. It was just good buckling down by us, I guess.”


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