Fruita gives Chaparral fits before falling by 4
Once it became obvious Chaparral High School’s full-court press wasn’t fazing Fruita Monument in the least Friday night, the Wolverines made a defensive switch that ultimately changed the girls basketball game and probably their fate.
Instead of getting in the faces of the Wildcats in the backcourt, the Wolverines dutifully headed back to their end of the court and settled into a 2-3 zone.
That was the end of Wildcat baskets off the press break and working the ball inside for points near the basket.
Meanwhile, 6-foot University of Wyoming recruit Natalie Baker had to work for every point she got, but she scored enough of them, 19 in all, to lead Chaparral to a 38-34 victory during the second day of the Wildcat Invitational.
Fruita’s composure against the press led to a 20-12 lead with 3 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half. Taylor Eatwell took a nice pass inside for an easy layup, and Kassidy Fair on the next possession fought to keep the ball, then hit a basket underneath for the eight-point advantage.
Eatwell dropped in a short hook shot for a 22-15 lead, but nothing came easy for the Wildcats after that. They managed a mere five points in the third quarter, with three coming on free throws.
The Wolverines dared Fruita to shoot from outside, but the Wildcats couldn’t, so for the most part they didn’t.
“We don’t shoot the ball well on the perimeter. We just don’t,” first-year Fruita Monument coach Michael Wells said. “We’re going to see a lot of (zone) because of the way we shoot.”
Still, the Wildcats led 27-24 after three quarters because they played some excellent defense of their own, and it started with the 5-foot-11 Eatwell chasing Baker everywhere she went.
“Taylor Eatwell was phenomenal on her,” Wells said, adding he believed her athleticism, height and determination could cause problems for Baker.
Eatwell also got help, as Wells said he made it clear to his players, “That girl doesn’t score on Taylor, she scores on us.”
Ultimately, Baker stopped shooting from the perimeter and fought through the Wildcats to get most of her points near the basket.
“A good player like that is going to get hers,” Wells said. “And she ended up making some plays we couldn’t stop.”
In the fourth quarter, two more Wolverines emerged.
Sophomore Rachel Nelson scored all five of her points in the first 3:03 of the fourth quarter.
She gave Chaparral its first lead, 31-30 with 4:57 remaining, when she rebounded the ball after three Wolverine misses and hit an 8-footer from the right baseline.
Fruita regained the lead, 32-31, on a jumper in the lane by Fair with 1:57 to go, but Chaparral’s response was immediate, a short shot by Baker to take the lead for good at 33-32.
Then, with 46 seconds left, Jenna Lanskey drained a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 36-32 lead.
Fruita answered with a basket by Vanessa Herrera with 33 seconds left, but the final two points were Chaparral free throws.
“Lanskey made the three in front of that kid, and that was the difference,” Chaparral coach Tony Speights said. “We made one more play than they did.”
The loss dropped Fruita to 1-5, but Wells didn’t lament the close loss, saying he’s more concerned with the process right now than Fruita’s record.
He said the Wildcats made a welcome about-face after playing selfishly and with little energy in their loss the previous night.
“Tonight they came out with energy and enthusiasm,” Wells said. “Tonight we took a step in the right direction. We have to keep walking that way.”