Fair and Love lead Fruita past Columbine

Mariah Love came off the court, eyes stinging, face tinted red. She didn’t know about the screen until it popped her face.

And that was OK. Fruita Monument had just defeated Columbine 40-30 at the Wildcat Invitational ­— Love was hit by the screen seconds before the final horn — and, besides, “We like to get roughed up a little bit,” she said.

This time, Fruita (4-1) had to rough itself up. At halftime, the Wildcats trailed 24-23.

“I told them, ‘You’re not hustling, you’re getting outplayed, and that’s the difference in the ballgame,’ ” Fruita coach Richard Atkins said.

Shortly after Fruita switched from a 1-3-1 defense to a 2-3 that began near halfcourt, Love hit a 3-pointer. Call it “the” 3.

“That broke the barrier,” Atkins said.

And it put Fruita ahead for good, 28-26, with 6:30 left in the third quarter.

After that? Much Love. Diving for a ball and saving it from going out of bounds, Love showed the hustle Fruita needed. To end the quarter, Love led a fastbreak, and crossing the 3-point line, slowed and waited for Kassidy Fair to run ahead. A pace later, Love lobbed the ball over a defender, hitting Fair in stride for a layup. Fruita led 38-26.

Fair finished with a team-high 16 points, and Love had 12.

Columbine (1-3) was led by 6-foot Mia Carter, who had 21 points.

“I think we kinda had to wake up at halftime,” Fair said.

Like most, Fair has her own technique for doing so.

“Definitely for me, I just say, ‘You’re not tired; you need to go,’ ” Fair said. “I think the starters, everyone on the bench, needs to be energized and ready to go.”

One problem for the Wildcats. Once they were done running, and getting “roughed up,” as Love said, they had trouble with the calmest aspect of the game — free throws.

Fruita’s aggressiveness helped lead to 30 of them. The Wildcats made nine.

“I think I can shoot better than they made tonight,” Atkins said.

The return of guard Lauren LaBonde, a defensive jitterbug who led many fastbreaks and quickly found cutting teammates, boosted the Wildcats. LaBonde missed Fruita’s first four games, having made what Atkins called a “bad decision.”

She made many good ones Friday. She finished with five points but diced Columbine off the dribble and with her sticky defense.

The Wildcats play Chaparral at 2:30 p.m. today, but with their impressive run of early season wins, folks in the valley basketball community perhaps cannot help but look ahead to
 Feb. 1 when the Wildcats play Grand Junction for the first time.

“I think we might be a little better than everyone thinks we are,” Atkins said, “I really do. Our kids are making some progress. These types of games are good for us because we had to work for everything.”

They had to get a little roughed up. Even to the final seconds.

3rd quarter keys Central win

In the final game of the night, Central outscored Fountain-Fort Carson 16-5 in the third quarter en route to a 44-36 win.

Taryn Smith led Central (2-3) with 13 points.

Also for the Warriors, D’Kota Brodie had 12 points, and Tyler Hays added 11, five of which came in the third quarter.

Chasity Horton led Fountain Fort Carson (1-4) with 12 points.

“We took care of the ball really well in the third quarter and shared it well,” Central coach Mary Doane said. “Most importantly, we kept them off the boards. They were doing such a good job rebounding in first half. So, we got it done defensively and took care of the ball.”

Hays, in particular, hit a no-hesitation 3-pointer in the third quarter, and she added a steal and left-handed layup that put Central ahead 29-19 with two minutes remaining.

“She’s got it in her,” Doane said of Hays. “And they all do. That’s the thing with this team. You’re not sure what night who it’s going to be.”

Brodie had six points in the third quarter, including one play that Central’s Robbi Termentozzi thought was the play of the game. With her back to the basket, and a defender on each hip, Brodie pumped a ball fake by her shoulder, then spun and snuck through both defenders for a layup.

“She’s a monster,” Termentozzi said of Brodie.

Although Termentozzi finished with only two points, Doane said her other contributions that didn’t make the statistics sheet also were key.

“She just grinded, and she worked hard, and she was a huge, huge factor for us on the boards,” Doane said.

Central plays Air Academy at 10 a.m. today, the final day of the tournament.


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