History lesson: Wildcat boys hope to learn from last season’s disappointment

Drew Bridges and the Fruita Monument basketball team know what it’s like to lose a home playoff game, having suffered that fate last season to Boulder. The Wildcats hope not to repeat that feat today vs. Gateway.

Last season, the Fruita Monument High School boys basketball team found out the hard way the intensity of the postseason.

The Wildcats finished 10-0 in the Southwestern League, but struggled in their second-round home playoff game — losing 67-49 to a streaking Boulder team.

“I think we were glad to win the SWL but were more of a pretender than a contender,” Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said. “We ran into a tough Boulder team, they were underrated and we saw that.”

The Wildcats had trouble matching Boulder’s initial pace, with the Panthers jumping out to a 20-6 first-quarter lead.

“We learned that those Denver teams are a lot different,” center Drew Bridges said. “They come out with a different attitude, and we realized that we had to start playing harder.” Fruita Monument cut the Boulder lead to nine at halftime, 33-24, but never got any closer.

“At halftime, I was trying to convince them to play harder,” Fox said. “It’s different when we play these teams because they are forced to play hard night in and night out. It’ll take 32 minutes of playing hard at a high level.”

The Wildcats, who host Gateway (17-7) tonight at 7 p.m. in a second-round game, vow not to let the same mistake happen twice.

“We are supposed to be a good team,” Bridges said. “We want to prove that this is a program that’s a lot different than it’s been.”

Fruita Monument (16-6) overcame a slow start to the season, winning 14 straight games — including all 10 in the SWL for the second straight season.

The Wildcats had hopes for something higher than a No. 4 seed, but know a win tonight helps the future of their program.

“It’s a home game, that’s a winnable game,” Fox said. “It’ll help us in the future to get some respect for the Western Slope.”

Fruita Monument is more prepared for this postseason, and has been playing very well lately.

Junior Alex Padgett has scored in double figures in the past four games — a solid second option along with Bridges.

“We need to show we can play,” Bridges said. “We are really motivated.”

The Wildcats are playing a Gateway team that defeated Rocky Mountain 58-36 in the first round.

Fox traveled to watch Wednesday’s game, and said he was impressed with the Olympians.

“They are very quick,” Fox said. “Well coached, disciplined, not very big, but they’ve won 17 games so they’ll be tough.”

No. 8 Grand Junction (17-6) at No. 1 Arapahoe (22-1), today, 2 p.m.

The Tigers are coming off their best game of the season — an 84-57 dismantling of Chatfield in the first round.

Tyler Winder had a career-high 35 points in Wednesday’s game, and Tigers coach Dutch Johnson said his group isn’t looking to slow down against the top seed in the Ray Ball Region.

“They are very motivated,” Johnson said. “I think they’re upset they are an eight seed, and rightfully so.”


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