Deep trouble: Team depth carries Fruita Monument past Central

Photo by Dean Humphrey—Fruita Monument’s Drew Bridges fights off Central’s Spencer Hicks, left, and Matt Champlin on Friday night during the Wildcats’ 55-38 win over the Warriors.

Good team depth is hard to beat.

And right now, not many teams have better depth than the Fruita Monument High School boys basketball team.

Friday night at Central, the Wildcats (13-8, 8-0 SWL) were without starter Tanner Crites, but still defeated Central 55-38 to clinch a share of the Southwestern League title.

Crites replaced Tyler Kenagy after Kenagy sustained a concussion against Grand Junction. Crites was unavailable Friday night because of the flu. In his place, the Wildcats used a combination of post player Gustaf Alin and guard Alex Padgett. Padgett led the Wildcats with 13 points.

“I knew I could play like this all the time, it was just getting the opportunity,” Padgett said. “It was fun.”

With the Wildcats down another player, Fruita Monument got a balanced attack. In addition to Padgett’s 13 points, Tyler Daniels, Drew Bridges and TJ Pollock each scored 12 points.

“We’ve had some injuries to some key guys,” Daniels said. “But us having a deep bench is paying off, and the coaches keep preaching to be ready when it’s your chance.”

Although the Wildcats won convincingly, things didn’t start off smoothly as Central (8-13, 2-6 SWL) played Fruita tough in the first quarter. Led by a determined Vandon Sanchez’s 10 first-half points, the Warriors tied the game 22-22 at halftime. Central coach Phil Cain said the Warriors didn’t come out in the second half with the same drive.

“We lost our intensity,” Cain said. “We gave up some easy ones, and they were putting pressure on us to do things right.”

Some of the Warriors’ intensity could have been shifted to the Fruita Monument locker room. The Wildcats went on a 14-4 run in the third quarter. Fruita’s offense was propelled by Daniels, who took advantage of Central’s focus on Bridges in the post by attacking the basket.

“I’m trying to run the offense so if they take away something like they did with our post guys, I’m going to try and attack,” Daniels said. “I tried to press the tempo and get our game going.”

Fruita stretched its lead to as much as 20 points.

Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said the key to the Wildcats’ strong second half was coming out with a renewed focus on the defense end.

“We played great defense, and it’s something we put a lot of effort into,” Fox said. “The kids are proud of it, and when we play hard the kids are pretty good.”

Central plays Thursday at Montrose. Fruita Monument can win the SWL title outright if it defeats Grand Junction on Thursday.

The Tigers and Montrose can still tie for the league title — Fruita wraps up the regular season Friday at home against Montrose.

“Those guys feel like they can get a piece of the pie,” Fox said. “So we need to get another win, but we aren’t trying to make any game bigger than it is.”


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