Fruita Monument girls fall on road in playoffs

HIGHLANDS RANCH — It wasn’t exactly how Stephanie Long wanted to end her high school career.

Only days after beating Rocky Mountain High School in what was their first playoff win in a decade, the Fruita Monument senior watched the season end in defeat against 5A powerhouse Highlands Ranch, as the Wildcats lost 62-20.

“It was hard,” said Long, who tied with Keila Utu for a team high seven points.

“They were a little taller than us and some were stronger. We just tried our best.”

Long, who is one of Fruita’s tallest players at 5-foot-10, was stuck playing in the post against a team with six players who were at least her height, including two six-footers. Of the 12 girls on the Highlands Ranch roster, only three players were listed five-foot-seven or shorter.

On top of that, the Falcons were quick, constantly bringing a defensive press that Fruita struggled to deal with. The moment the Wildcats would bring the ball into their offensive half, the ball handler was double teamed and when the ball was passed, the double team would switch to that player. It led to turnovers that prevented scoring chances for the Wildcats.

“We tried pretty much every offense we had and nothing seemed to work,” said Fruita Monument coach Dan Schmalz. “Sometimes it’s like that. Some teams are really good and this team is number one in the state for a reason.”

Although some defenses cause teams to take bad shots, Fruita simply didn’t get a whole lot of opportunities.

“We weren’t getting any shots,” Schmalz said. “We didn’t take enough shots to even stay close with them. We told the girls to shoot when they’re open, and they played such great defense it was hard.”

The game started close, with Highlands Ranch’s Tierra Shumpert hitting a quick 3-pointer 40 seconds in, and scoring two more 20 seconds later off of a turnover.

Long got the ball down low, scoring while being fouled and hitting the free throw for a three-point play.

After that, the closest Fruita would be was within four-points after Taylor Johnson pushed the score to 9-5 in Highlands’ favor.  After that, the Wildcats only saw two more points in the quarter from free throws by Utu, and had turnovers haunt them with the Eagles taking a 30-7 lead into the second quarter.

“Everything we do comes from our defense,” said Highlands Ranch coach Caryn Jarocki. “We try to play really tight defense so we can fast break in transition and score easy baskets.”

The second quarter, Highlands Ranch broke out offensively behind Shumpert, Sendy Valles and Michaela Neuhaus and also kept the Wildcats from scoring. At halftime, Fruita trailed by 49 points, 56-7.

The trio combined with Katelyn McDaniel to finished with more than ten points each. Shumpert led the team with 16, Valles had 14, McDaniels had 13, and Neuhaus had 11.

The Wildcats scored 13 points in the final half and limited Highlands Ranch to eight. Utu and Long were the only players to finish with more than two points. Katie Lewis, Sarah Hensley and Johnson all finished with two each.

Highlands Ranch, which won state championships in 2006, 2007, and 2008, will move on to play Grand Junction Wednesday.


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