Free throws lift Fairview past ’Cats
Through the first two games of the season, the Fruita Monument girls basketball team has done more things right than wrong.
Friday night against Fairview, the Wildcats continued that trend, doing enough things right to have a 39-38 lead with less than two minutes left.
Then came the biggest mistake of the night, fouling Fairview’s Casey Thayer.
Thayer made six consecutive free throws in the final two minutes, which was enough to propel Fairview to a 45-41 win.
The Thayer free-throw barrage began when Fruita was called for a foul as Thayer drove to the basket.
Although she didn’t make the shot, Thayer nailed both free throws, and after a missed possession on Fruita’s end, Thayer was fouled again. She hit two more free throws, giving the Knights a 42-39 lead.
The Wildcats’ Taylor Johnson was fouled at the other end. She made her free throws, cutting the lead to one. On the ensuing inbounds play, the Knights smartly got the ball to Thayer, who was fouled and again hit two free throws. The Wildcats, still down by three, couldn’t get a good look at the tying basket.
“(Thayer) was money from the free-throw line, she just didn’t miss,” Fruita Monument coach Dan Schmalz said. “We haven’t been in a lot of situations like that, so it is not completely their fault. Sometimes when you haven’t had the experience, it is hard.”
Friday’s game was the second part of a home-and-home series with the Knights. The Wildcats lost last season 69-32 in Boulder. A major key in that game was Fairview’s 20-6 first quarter lead.
It looked like it could have been more of the same Friday.
Fruita couldn’t get anything to fall in the first quarter and found itself down 18-7. In years past that would have spelled doom for the Wildcats but this group responded.
Thayer began the second quarter with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 14, but Brooke Janowitz matched the deep shot on the Wildcats’ next possession. Janowitz hit another 3-pointer midway through the quarter to cut it to 23-17. Baskets by Katie Lewis and Johnson put the game into a 23-23 tie going into halftime.
“After the first I thought we were in trouble,” Schmalz said. “But they bounced back, played great defense, pushed the ball, got easy shots and knocked them down.
“I am really happy with the second quarter.”
A big part to the Wildcats’ comeback in the second was the their ability to keep Fairview from getting second and third opportunities with offensive rebounds. Johnson, Mary
McGee and Lewis each finished with nine rebounds.
“We were able to rally back and the defense was the main thing that got us back in it,” Lewis said. “Last year we weren’t ready and this year I feel like we have a lot more togetherness.”
McGee and Johnson were the Wildcats’ leading scorers with 12 points each. Thayer led the way for the Knights with 14.
Fruita hosts the Wildcat Invitational beginning Thursday. Class 5A teams ThunderRidge and Columbine will be at the tournament as well as Battle Mountain and Carbon County, Utah, plus the four Grand Valley teams.
“That effort gets us ready for the Wildcat,” Schmalz said. “The execution wasn’t great but it was the second game of the season. You can’t complain (about) the effort.”