Freshman beats OT buzzer, lifts Indians past ‘Cats

MONTROSE — The Fruita Monument High School girls basketball team is regarded as one of the most potent offenses in the Southwestern League. Most of its games are baseline-to-baseline track meets. Montrose coach Eric Sanchez expected just as much.

Wildcats coach Richard Atkins, however, slowed the game to a crawl.

Fruita forced overtime despite foul and pacing trouble, but an air-ball rebound and putback by Montrose freshman Kourtney Keltz as the overtime buzzer sounded lifted Montrose to a 34-32 victory over Fruita on Tuesday. They were Keltz’s only points of the game.

“I was just really excited,” Keltz said. “I saw that my sister (Kala) couldn’t do it because she was blocked, so I was just glad I could do that for her and my team.”

Foul trouble caused the Wildcats to play at an uncharacteristically slow pace. Fruita outscored the 66 total points in Tuesday’s game four times this season, including an 87-point showing against Montezuma-Cortez.

“If you look at all the fouls they were calling and all the free throws they were shooting, you’d see that we needed to keep them off the line,” Atkins said. “So we came out in the second half and slowed the game down. Because it’s pretty obvious that if we didn’t keep them off the line, we wouldn’t have been in it.”

On top of foul trouble, Fruita struggled to hit from long range. The Wildcats shot 4 of 17 from beyond the 3-point arc. Atkins said his team needed to perform better in big games, and a tough game in Montrose prepares his team for rivalry games next week against Central and Grand Junction.

“Our kids still need to learn how to do the right things during a pressure game,” Atkins said. “I thought overall, our kids played hard, but they need to learn to convert. Especially in an environment like this, you need to convert.”

Montrose now has two big wins over quality opponents, beating Fruita Monument and Grand Junction. Sanchez said having to defend a guard like Lauren LaBonde helped prepare his team for the rest of the league schedule.

“You have to know where she’s at,” Sanchez said. “She might be the best guard, endline to endline, in the league. You just have to stay disciplined.

“We know this league’s tough, and if we want to win a league championship, we have to win home games. That’s what we did on Friday. That’s what we did tonight.”

Labonde finished with 13 points, three steals and two assists. Eden Laase and Taylor Eatwell chipped in five points apiece.

Tess Skoe led Montrose with 12 points and went 8 for 8 from the free-throw line.


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