Third-quarter profit: Fruita comes out strong after halftime to win first home playoff game in 12 ye

Fruita Monument’s Keila Utu grabs a rebound Tuesday night from Rampart’s Brinkley Myers in the Wildcats’ 61-50 victory in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. Utu had 11 points an nine boards in the win.

After earning a home playoff game, the Fruita Monument High School girls basketball team wanted more.

The Wildcats’ relentless play after halftime Tuesday night earned them a 61-50 victory over Rampart — their first home playoff win in 12 years.

“We sacrificed a lot to get a home game,” Taylor Johnson said of the Wildcats, who advance to the second round Friday at Fairview. “So we might as well win the game.”

Johnson came out motivated Tuesday night. The 5-foot-11 senior scored the Wildcats’ first five points on a jumper and a 3-pointer.

“We decided that positive energy was the way to go,” Johnson said. “That catapulted us into our offense and defense.”

The Wildcats got a 3 from Megan Reynoso to increase the lead to 8-2, but the Rams fought their way back. Rampart cut the score to 14-12 by the end of the first quarter.

Rampart took its first lead, 16-14, early in the second quarter on Brinkley Myers’ inside bucket.

A great play seemed to give the momentum back to Fruita Monument. Jessica Sinner blocked a shot and the loose ball was corralled by Johnson, who found Sinner streaking up the sideline. Sinner passed the ball ahead to Lauren LaBonde, who despite appearing to be too far underneath the basket, made a layup to give the Wildcats a 20-18 lead.

Rampart answered right back with a Katie Ruff 3-pointer to go up 21-20.

Fruita Monument was able to regain the lead by halftime at 25-23.

“We started off great in the first quarter, then it just went back and forth,” Fruita Monument coach Dan Schmalz said. “The last thing I said to them before the third quarter was to be relentless.” The Wildcats came out after halftime and played one of their best quarters all season.

Fruita Monument went on a 15-2 run that included 3-pointers from LaBonde and Sinner.

“That was huge,” Schmalz said. “They were shuttling players in and trying to slow things down, we were able to push it to 15 before they made their comeback.”

Rampart clawed its way back into the game, cutting the deficit to 51-46 with three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Wildcats responded to put the game away. After making a free throw to push it to 52-46, Reynoso missed the second free throw. The loose ball was rebounded by Johnson, who scored to increase the lead to 54-46.

“After that, I could feel we had it,” Johnson said. “It was motivating to come out as a team and get that win.”

The Wildcats had a lot of production from their starting five of Sinner, LaBonde, Johnson, Reynoso and Keila Utu.

LaBonde had a team-high 18 points, Johnson had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Utu finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Reynoso added nine points and Sinner finished with eight points and four assists.

“Getting the home playoff win was our goal,” Schmalz said. “But we have a lot left in us.”


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