The first win
'Cats survive 1st-game jitters to get Dreher's initial victory
Muddled in first-game miscues and rust and on-and-off shooting was a glimpse of simple basketball, in a most fundamental form.
In the fourth quarter of the Warrior Challenge boys basketball tournament at Central High School on Thursday, Fruita Monument’s Devin Winstanley made a back-door cut, leaving his defender distant and leaning, then took a bounce pass from Matt Story for a layup.
And that was part of the start of Billy Dreher’s first game as the Wildcats head coach, and it gave Fruita a seven-point lead and helped the Wildcats take a 50-47 win over Delta.
Story led Fruita (1-0) with 16 points and Winstanley had eight of his nine in the fourth quarter. Dylan Row flashed a steady jump shot with nine points, and Spencer Fair, playing three positions and in constant foul trouble, scored nine.
Douglas Hawkins led Delta (0-1) with 12.
Dreher, a 1988 Fruita Monument High School graduate, played in the same building against Central — sort of.
“We played in the old gym,” Dreher said of the adjacent Central gym. “When the gym was packed. But it’s always good no matter where you’re at to get that first one.”
Dreher, known in part for his 3-point accuracy, had Fruita running an offense in which players were constantly running off picks and taking open jump shots. Fair and Row hit 3s for Fruita.
“All you can do as a coach is put them in position to get the ball at the right time,” said Dreher, whose extensive playing days included two years at the University of California-Berkeley, “and hopefully they do their job.”
Fair, Fruita’s 6-foot-7 standout, not only is learning a new system, he is learning to play it as a point guard, shooting guard and small forward. “It’s kind of hard,” he said.
Fair, who played point guard in junior high and on Thursday made a couple of no-look passes and ran the floor with his head looking up the court, was plagued with foul trouble.
He hit a 3-pointer, then was tagged with his second foul and left with 5 minutes remaining in the first quarter; he was subbed out again with 7:30 in the fourth quarter after boxing out with his hip; and left for good with 1:55 remaining after a charge.
Story and Winstanley also had four fouls and spent some time on the bench.
So Dreher, who played without key players Donny Thornhill, a senior guard, and freshman Arturo Chavez, a freshman who Dreher said will get playing time, crammed plenty in his debut.
“Even Matt Story had four fouls late, but we kept him in the game just because we couldn’t take all three of those guys out,” Dreher said.
But Fruita got the win, holding off numerous Delta runs. The Panthers, who also had eight points from point guard Chris Black, cut the lead to 50-47 with 12 seconds remaining on a 3-pointer by Keaton Reiher, who had two 3-pointers for six points.
Delta got the ball back on carry violation on Fruita, but Black’s cross-over dribble and pull-up 3-pointer was off at the buzzer.
And Dreher and the Wildcats had their first ‘W.’
“We have that respect for (Dreher),” Story said. “We do. But we don’t feel like we have to just live up to what he did. Just show up and play our ball.”