Energy in reserve
LaBonde's strong play off bench lifts 'Cats
MONTROSE — The first girl off the bench for Fruita Monument High School was also the first to claim the game for the Wildcats on Friday.
In the second quarter of the Black Canyon Basketball Classic, Fruita Monument’s Lauren LaBonde erupted with energy she’d stored from missing the first four games of the season, as well as the first four minutes of the first quarter against Delta.
In the second quarter, the senior had six steals, two assists and 12 of her 20 points in Fruita Monument’s 58-48 win over Delta.
LaBonde often was matched up with Delta standout guard Skylyn Webb, who finished with 15 points.
“She’s a hands-down solid player,” LaBonde said of Webb. “And I know she’s a quick little guard, so I had to have the mind-set of keeping her out of the paint.”
Delta (0-2) has begun its season with losses to Grand Junction (9-0) and Fruita Monument (5-2).
The Wildcats also had 12 points from Kassidy Fair and 10 points from Sam Parks, who, after Fruita took a 26-19 lead into halftime, hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the opening minute of the third quarter. Parks finished with three 3-pointers.
But her first two of the second half seemed to smash any Delta comeback.
“The 3s made them switch their defense, so I think it affected the game there,” Parks said.
Indeed, Delta called timeout and switched from a 1-3-1 defense to man-to-man.
But it didn’t do much to slow Fruita’s emerging sixth woman, LaBonde.
“I missed the first four games, and these girls formed chemistry without me there,” LaBonde said. “They didn’t want to disrupt the chemistry, so I can still give the girls that second burst of energy. I have no problem coming off the bench at all.”
Neither does Fruita head coach Richard Atkins.
“John Havlicek used to play for the Celtics,” Atkins said. “And he was the best sixth man. I don’t look at Lauren as the sixth man. I look at her to contribute to the team and give us some additional offense we really need at this point.”
Here’s a snippet of her second quarter: She hit a jump shot to tie the game at 15-15, stole the ball off Fruita’s full-court press to put the Wildcats ahead 17-15, and then hit a 3-pointer as Fruita went up by five points.
LaBonde came out for 10 seconds during a free throw, then checked back in the game, made another steal and passed up a 3-pointer to dish the ball to Parks, who made her own 3.
“LaBonde was tough and so athletic,” Delta coach Matt Hamm said. “We hadn’t really seen anybody like her in awhile in terms of her ability to jump into passing lanes. For us this early in the season to see someone with that athleticism is rare, in our league anyway.”
Delta will improve, Hamm said.
“This was only our second game, and we definitely have some things in our offense we need to pick up,” Hamm said.
Also for the Panthers, Callie Gafford finished with a team-high 17 points, and Shelby Curtis scored 10.
Delta plays Montrose at 2 p.m. today, and Fruita Monument goes against Alamosa at 12:30 p.m.