Fruita uses height to get past Palisade

The absence of leading scorer Lauren LaBonde didn’t hinder the Fruita Monument High School girls basketball team Tuesday night.

The Wildcats ended Palisade’s three game win streak with a 50-37 victory.

LaBonde, who averages 13 points per game for the Wildcats (10-8, 3-2 Southwestern League), has been out since Jan. 24 with a broken pinky finger.

“We’re hoping to have her back Friday,” coach Dan Schmalz said. “She has a doctor appointment Thursday, and we’ll see then if she can play against Junction.”

Without their best shooter, the Wildcats changed their strategy against the undersized Bulldogs (7-11, 3-4 Western Slope League). with five players taller than Palisade’s tallest player, Fruita dominated the boards ­— grabbing 14 offensive rebounds

“We’re definitely looking inside more,” Schmalz said. “I think we had a huge size advantage tonight and utilized it pretty well. Kassidy (Fair), Vanessa (Herrera), Jenni (Sneddon), Ashley (Martin) and even Michelle (Hunter) there at the end all had great games.

We have to use that size to our advantage. We’re one of the bigger teams in the league and we have to use that size again.”

Fair led the Wildcats with 13 points and Herrera added a season-high 10 points.

“We’re a lot bigger than (Palisade) and we just worked with that,” Fair said. “We focused on post moves and finishing.”

Finishing was something the Wildcats struggled to do in the first half, missing several inside shots. Missed shots and foul trouble allowed Palisade to hang around in the first half. The Bulldogs were in the bonus before the end of the first quarter, and at halftime, the Wildcats had 11 fouls to the Bulldogs’ three. “I told the girls to be smarter defensively,” Schmalz said. “We were using our hands too much. Those are stupid fouls and when we have important members of our team sitting on the bench, that hurts us.”

The Wildcats closed the third quarter with a 9-2 run after never leading by more than three in the second half, and put the game out of reach by hitting mid-range jump shots.

According Palisade coach Toni Gunther, the game started unravelling when the Bulldogs switched from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone.

“We switched to try and stop their penetration but then we couldn’t get out to cover the jumpers,” Gunther said. “They hit some shots, and then we put them on the line and they made a little run.”

Flannery Davis led the Bulldogs with 11 points and Cruz Maestas chipped in 10.


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