Fruita wins 3rd straight SWL title

Drew Bridges had himself a game Friday night and in doing so, he led the Fruita Monument High School boys basketball team to a third straight Southwestern League championship.

Hosting Montrose on Friday night in a winner-take-all game, Bridges scored 37 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Wildcats (20-3, 9-1 SWL) to a thrilling 55-52 win.

Bridges was an unstoppable force in the paint. When Fruita needed a bucket, Bridges was there.

“This just feels amazing,” the senior said. “Especially in this atmosphere and to get the three-peat is just an awesome feeling.”

Thanks to Bridges’ huge game, the Wildcats ran their league record over the past three years to 29-1. The lone loss was to Grand Junction earlier this year. But, in a must-win game against a physical and defensive-minded Montrose (19-4, 8-2) team, Bridges and company came through.

“What can you say about Drew?” Fruita coach Dave Fox said. “Unbelievable. He was all over the place.”

Bridges scored 12 of his 37 points in the opening quarter to give Fruita a 21-18 lead. Alex Padgett scored eight of his 12 points in the first quarter.

With Fruita leading 28-25 midway through the second quarter, Montrose closed on a 9-7 run to cut Fruita’s lead to one point, 35-34. In the third, Montrose’s offense came to life as it outscored Fruita 14-7 to take a 48-42 lead entering the final quarter.

“We kind of slowed down a bit in the third,” Bridges said. “Our defense wasn’t its best and we were struggling to score. We knew that this was a game that could get away from us.”

And that it nearly did, especially late.

Despite Bridges’ huge game, he did come up short at the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter that would have all but iced the game. Bridges was 2 for 6 from the free-throw line in the final 32 seconds, leaving Montrose several opportunities to get back into the game.

“I need to relax a little bit more,” Bridges said. “I’ve got to work on that a little bit more, but you know, a win is a win.”

Cody Daniels came up with arguably the game’s biggest play with 13 seconds left. With Fruita clinging to its 55-52 lead, Montrose had the ball and was attempting to inbound it to Angelo Youngren.

But Daniels, who was playing with four fouls, made an aggressive decision to go for the ball, and it paid off. He deflected the ball, which hit Youngren’s leg before going out of bounds.

“I had a crappy game, but at that point I knew I had to play good defense,” Daniels said. “I was focused on (Youngren). Wherever he goes, I go, and was able to get the ball.

“I was relieved after that play. Everything else before that one play didn’t matter any more. I know that when I walk in here 30 years from now and look up at the boys banner and see a league championship from 2012, I can say that I left something here.”

Trailing 48-42 entering the fourth quarter, Fruita outscored Montrose 13-4, with Bridges getting 12 of those points.

“I thought our kids showed a great deal of character in this game,” Fox said. “You go 29-1 and you’ve got a lot of kids with the will to win and it really helps you and it did for us tonight.

“I’m just so proud of these kids. I just can’t say enough about them. You go three years and win (the league title) three years in a row and you do it going 29-1, it’s pretty amazing.”


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UP NEXT: Playoff pairings announced Sunday


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