Johnson lifts Wildcats to victory

Fruita Monument’s Jessica Sinner rises to score Monday during the Wildcats’ win over Montezuma-Cortez.

Taylor Johnson doesn’t mind coming off the bench.

“I know when it’s time to go in it’s time to play my hardest,” Johnson said. “So right off the bench, I don’t care if I am on the bench or not starting, just getting out there and getting ready to play, you’ve always got to be focused and ready to go.”

Johnson, who was Fruita Monument’s leading scorer last season, has been working back after missing six games because of personal reasons.

In Tuesday’s 76-63 win over Montezuma-Cortez, Johnson and teammate Sarah Hensley came out in full force, scoring a combined 41 points against the Panthers.

“When (Johnson) comes in, she’s fresh and the other girls have lost half a step. Nobody can stop her,” said Fruita coach Dan Schmalz.

“Sarah was on tonight and if both of them are on, that’s how you score 76 points.”

The two teams found themselves in a close game early. With Cortez up 17-9 with three minutes remaining in the first quarter, Hensley and Stephanie Long provided the offense to move the game within one.

Although the Wildcats finished the quarter trailing, they continued to use 3-point shooting from Hensley and Johnson to take and keep the lead. They finished the second quarter with a four-point lead, and Hensley finished the half with four 3-pointers.

It was in the third quarter when Fruita really pulled away, limiting to the Panthers to 14 points to the Wildcats’ 21.  The Wildcats’ defense allowed only 11 points in the fourth quarter.

“We clamped down defensively and executed offensively really well,” Schmalz said. “We ran specific plays for specific girls and they worked out really well.”

Ultimately, Schmalz was pleased with the performance of the offense. Four players, including Long, Johnson, Hensley and Katie Lewis finished in double figures. Hensley led the team with 24 points.

“I think offensively we were clicking on all cylinders and everybody worked,” Schmalz said. “A lot of our girls scored and most of our girls took shots, and took good shots.”

Sydney Bayles and Keely Yanito led the Panthers with 16 points each.

Fruita Monument plays Durango at 4 p.m. today.


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