Physical in the paint: Warriors top Wildcats in foul-filled contest
The Central High School girls basketball team is familiar with physical play.
With a tenacious non-league schedule, the Warriors have been bruised and bumped by top teams in Colorado like Monarch and ThunderRidge.
Coming into Friday night’s first Southwestern League game against Fruita Monument, Central didn’t plan on altering its aggressive style.
The Warriors (9-3, 1-0 SWL) pushed and pressured their way to a 58-33 win.
“The type of physicalness of the game was what we had seen in non-league,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “Only this time the whistle was blowing.”
Fruita (6-7, 0-1 SWL) and Central racked up 26 combined first-half fouls and shot a combined 32 free throws before halftime.
“It was a physical game and there were a lot of fouls called,” Dixon said. “That’s not what we’re used to, but we made the adjustments.”
Central made its offensive adjustments with four minutes left in the first quarter, leading only 2-0. The Warriors sped up their tempo, led by Amy Kame, who scored 10 points en route to a 14-3 first-quarter lead.
The Wildcats tried to respond in the second quarter, but couldn’t put together good offensive stretches.
“We didn’t run our stuff very well,” Fruita Monument coach Dan Schmalz said. “Plus, we really turned the ball over a lot.”
Central held a 31-18 lead at halftime.
In the second half, the Warriors’ first-half foul trouble resurfaced as Kame committed her third foul midway through the third quarter. Dixon sat Kame for six straight minutes and the Warriors continued to expand their lead to 45-27 by the end of the third quarter.
Without Kame, Central had a balanced scoring attack led by Tayler Else, Haleigh Higgins and Stacey Kinnett.
“There is no player in the world that wants her teammates to succeed more than Amy Kame,” Dixon said. “I know she was happy that they played well.”
Kame’s strong first half helped her lead the way with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Kame said it was a good start to league play.
“It was fun to get out here and start league,” Kame said. “I think we sent a message we are here to win, and I’m proud because we played with class.”
Fruita Monument was led by Taylor Johnson, who scored nine points. Johnson had missed the previous six games while away from the team for personal reasons.
“We are a better team than what we showed tonight,” Schmalz said. “I believe the talent that is in the locker room is better than what was on the court.”
The Fruita Monument boys team played like it had something to prove.
After finishing with only one SWL win last season, the new-look Wildcats separated themselves from the struggling 2009 version.
In the Wildcats’ (6-8, 1-0 SWL) first home game, playing in front of a big crowd, Fruita cruised to a 59-40 win over Central.
“Taking last place last year was hard,” Fruita post player Drew Bridges said. “We wanted to come out and play hard.”
Friday night, the Wildcats were playing with an intensity level not many teams in the state could match. The Wildcats worked the ball to the athletic Bridges in the paint, helping Fruita sprint to a 16-2 first-quarter lead.
“I think the kids were excited to be home,” Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said. “It was nice to play in front of a great crowd like we had tonight.”
Fruita Monument kept the pressure on both ends in the second quarter as Bridges had six points on his way to 13 first-half points. Bridges also had five first-half blocks, including one late in the first quarter that he sent into the first few rows of the home crowd bleachers.
“Every coach wants to get the ball inside, and I thought Drew did a great job,” Fox said. “But our passing was great, and we shared the ball really well.” As expected, Central (6-6, 0-1 SWL) came out in the third quarter and played better, outscoring Fruita 16-10 in the quarter. The Warriors were led by Josh Wells’ 13 points and Taylor Sanchez’s 10.
“It’s a hard locker room because we played so well that we knew we might have a letdown,” Fox said. “I challenged them to keep it up, but it was hard to play with that same intensity.”
Bridges played a strong fourth quarter on his way to a game high 21 points. Only a sophomore, Bridges has been a force in the middle for the Wildcats this season.
“We were very excited to get out there,” Bridges said. “We want to win the league this year.”
Central tries to regroup Tuesday at Delta and Fruita Monument is off until next Friday when it hosts Durango.