Fruita feeling good heading into Sweet 16

It’s not like last season, and Fruita Monument High School boys basketball coach Dave Fox can feel it.

Maybe it’s the lingering buzz from Friday’s buzzer-beater to defeat Lincoln in the Class 5A boys basketball championships second-round game.

Or is it the seniors? Cody Daniels, Alex Padgett and Drew Bridges, to name a few, are hoping to get past the Sweet 16 at Columbine at 7 p.m. today.

Last season, Fruita lost in the Sweet 16.

The year before, it bowed out in the second round.

But things seem to be different this year, Fox said.

Just a feeling.

“It’s just the attitude in talking with the kids,” Fox said by phone Monday just as the Wildcats got through De Beque Canyon en route to Denver.

The Wildcats left at 11 a.m. to beat a snow storm that soon was expected to hit the mountains Monday afternoon.

As for the attitude of optimism, it began after the No. 3 Wildcats’ 59-57 overtime win Friday over Lincoln.

As players walked down the hallway, Fox told them Columbine had defeated Mullen, but just barely — 40-37.

“We’re right there,” Fox said.

So what does No. 2 Columbine (20-4) bring to the hardwood?

And is Fruita (20-4) right there?

Columbine features 6-foot-7, 230-pound Jonathan Snow, a junior averaging 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

Fruita has experience of playing against 6-foot-9 Gabriel Vasquez of Lincoln.

The Wildcats’ 6-foot-4 center, Drew Bridges, who is averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds, said the Wildcats weren’t used to such height.

At least Fruita is used to travel.

This season, the Wildcats made long trips to play Grandview, Rangeview, Smoky Hill, Dakota Ridge and Loveland.

“I don’t think many of the kids are going to be intimidated,” Fox said. “We had a great schedule and we saw a lot of good players this year.”

For what a look at common opponents is worth, Columbine and Fruita played Dakota Ridge.

The Wildcats whipped Dakota Ridge, 71-51, on Dec. 16. Three weeks later, Columbine lost to the Eagles, 54-51.

But Fruita no longer has point guard Zach Thorpe, a sixth man off the bench who brought some grit to the lineup. Thorpe recently had reconstructive knee surgery.

Other things have changed since December.

“A lot of teams scouting us made life harder for Bridges and Alex Padgett,” Fox said. “But it’s nice to see Spencer Fair and Alex Jouflas step up and play so much better.”

Fox said Littleton gave the Wildcats trouble by showing numerous zone defenses, such as a box-and-one, with one defender sticking to Padgett.

“But I think Columbine will be man-to-man,” Fox said.

Just a feeling.


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