Fruita Monument wins Southwestern League title
The Fruita Monument High School boys basketball team said it often after finishing in last place in the Southwestern League last season.
Worst to first.
Thursday night, the Wildcats did just that.
Fruita (14-8, 9-0 SWL) won its first SWL title since 2001 by defeating rival Grand Junction 47-45.
“It’s really a great feeling to watch a group of young men believe in what you tell them,” Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said. “We posted (worst to first) on the wall and told them to believe it can happen.”
In what has been a trend for the Wildcats, their win came in dramatic fashion.
Fruita Monument played a back-and-forth game with the Tigers (15-7, 6-3 SWL) before a Tommy Powers 3-pointer tied the score at 45-45 with 30 seconds remaining. Fruita called a timeout to decide on the final play.
“I didn’t want to play any overtime, and give Powers a lot of credit for hitting that huge 3,” Fox said. “I wanted to make sure we would get the last shot.”
The Wildcats tried to get the ball to TJ Pollock, but the senior guard couldn’t find an open shot. With 10 seconds left, the ball made its way to senior Steve Goff, who attacked the basket. Grand Junction’s Jesse Smith tried to contest Goff’s shot, but the layup touched off the glass and went in.
“They doubled down on TJ, so I got the ball and saw I could attack,” Goff said. “Big Jesse was there, but I found a way around him and it went in.”
The Tigers’ final attempt was snuffed by Goff, who stole the ball.
“Goff was a second option and I don’t think we drew it up where they deflect the ball and he takes it in the way he did,” Fox said. “I give all the credit to Steve ‘Mr. Big Shot’ Goff.”
Grand Junction played about as well as it could on Goff’s drive to the hoop.
“It was a challenged shot, and I thought we guarded him well,” Grand Junction coach Dutch Johnson said. “We stayed home on shooters and did everything we could.”
After losing to the Wildcats by 13 in the first game between the two teams, Grand Junction controlled most of the first half. The Tigers held a 28-24 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter before the Wildcats made a run.
Tyler Daniels started it off with a 3-pointer and drew a foul on Tigers’ Tyler Winder. Daniels missed the free throw but the loose ball bounced out to Alex Padgett, who knocked down a 3-pointer for a 30-28 lead.
“They are so tough on defense that we weren’t getting anything out of our sets,” Fox said. “The ball got kicked to Alex and we were waiting for him to hit a big shot and he did.”
Drew Bridges led the Wildcats with 12 points and Powers finished with 12 for the Tigers.
With the league title clinched, Fruita will go for a undefeated league record tonight against Montrose. Grand Junction finishes the regular season tonight at Central.
The Warriors lost at Montrose 67-62 on Thursday night.
Central was hurt by a slow start, being outscored by the 19-8 in the first quarter. The Warriors mounted a few comebacks in the game, cutting the deficit to as few as three points, but couldn’t get any closer.
Josh Wells led Central with 21 points.