Proper defensive technique lifts Fruita past Montrose
Of the techniques involved in basketball, a defensive rotation may be the last celebrated in a highlight, cheer or song.
But for the Fruita Monument High School girls basketball team Tuesday, snappy rotations across court were repeated like a chant. And the Wildcats performed a chore for the Southwestern League with a 42-27 win over league-leading Montrose, ranked No. 7 in Class 4A.
Lauren LaBonde scored a game-high 19 points for the Wildcats (13-6, 4-2 Southwestern League). But she rarely had to rotate. Instead, when Montrose (12-3, 5-1) passed the ball to the corner or wing and an Indians post player was unguarded, it was often Eden Laase, Sam Parks or Mariah Love filling the gap.
“To get a defensive rotation, it is hard work,” said Fruita’s Vanessa Herrera, who opened the second half with a jump shot and offensive rebound for a layup. “You have to be on top of it. We work on it every practice, so by now we should have been good.”
Practice has turned into instinct. It just happened to come against Montrose, which was led by Elise Hill’s seven points. Fruita limited Indians sharpshooter Kala Keltz to six points. Even more, Keltz fouled out with 4:27 remaining in the game.
“You like to play that quality of a team,” Fruita coach Richard Atkins said of Montrose. “You know they’re going to do the right things, and you really have to play.”
Until the final couple of minutes, Montrose played a box-and-one defense on Fruita, sticking a defender on LaBonde throughout. LaBonde normally brings the ball up the court. This time Atkins, anticipating the box-and-one, began LaBonde down low on offense. That way she could move off picks, and she could distract.
“It worked to our advantage and not necessarily with me scoring,” LaBonde said, “but by getting the ball as a decoy, almost as, ‘Oh, there she goes,’ and that gets open shots for other players.”
Early in the second half, it was Herrera, who finished with eight points.
“Vanessa is one of the girls I coached when she was in seventh and eighth grade,” Atkins said. “She’s very coachable; she listens to you. And she’s really improving.”
So is the Wildcats’ resiliency. Montrose went on a 7-0 run in the third quarter with two baskets by Lara Ammermann (six points) and a 3-pointer by freshman Holly Brooks to cut the lead to 27-19. But there was LaBonde after a Fruita timeout, dribbling in a circle, creating her own decoy, before finding Herrera for a short jump shot.
But in the end, Fruita won it with one of the more unglamorous techniques in the game.
“This was just a really important game for us,” Parks said. “We got (the rotations) because we were determined to win.”