3-point shooting lifts Fruita to victory
The wrist bands were long gone. During shooting practices, they kept the hand that steadies the ball in line with the forearm. And the “shot doctor,” as forward Spencer Fair called Fruita Monument High School coach Billy Dreher, was now on the sideline Tuesday.
Dreher watched as the Fruita Monument boys basketball team sank seven 3-pointers in a 78-31 over Olathe at Colorado Mesa University’s Brownson Arena.
What Dreher thought might be a Wildcats’ weakness, outside shooting, has become their strength. And what used to be Dreher’s ticket to Division I basketball, the 3-point shot, is now something Dreher can be proud of when watching his players.
Donny Thornhill led the Wildcats (6-7) with 16 points and three 3-pointers.
Class 5A Fruita led 3A Olathe 50-13 at halftime. The Wildcats inserted their second-team players to begin the second half.
“As of right now we’re on pace to shoot the ball as well as any team I’ve had from 3-point land,” Dreher said. “We’re not amazing, but being a former shooter you obviously love to see kids that can make 3s.”
Also for Fruita, Spencer Fair had 13 points and a 3-pointer, Devin Winstanley had 11 points and a 3-pointer, and Dylan Row had eight points and two 3-pointers.
For Olathe (3-6), which was led by Tanner Vernon’s 12 points, it was a chance to play against a much larger school. Olathe coach Lance Ready said the Pirates could have played 18 games, but chose to play 19 with the additional game against Fruita.
“It obviously hurt to lose like this,” Ready said. “But it’s a great experience to play on a college floor. And you can’t simulate (defensive) pressure like that in practice It can be humbling to see what’s out there.”
As prolific as Fruita has been from behind the 3-point line — Dreher said Row is shooting more than 50 percent, and Fair is in the 40s — Dreher wants the Wildcats to improve on shots around the basket. And he wants them to take better care of the ball.
But when the 3-point shots are snapping nets, the shot doctor can smile.
“We played in the offseason and didn’t shoot well,” Row said. “Then we came out and all of a sudden we’re on fire.”
Fair, Fruita’s 6-7 guard/forward/center, since Christmas break has continued to add dunks and no-look passes to his 3-point shooting.
“The 3-point ball was open in that zone,” Fair said. “We attacked the basket, kicked the ball out, and guys knocked them down.”
Grand Junction 59, Uintah, Utah 28: The Tigers raced to a 25-5 lead after one quarter and had a 39-15 halftime advantage in the nonleague game.
Tigers assistant coach Isaac Madison said Grand Junction got off to a fast start, something it had struggled to do in recent games. The Tigers forced Uintah into some turnovers and got out in transition for some easy baskets.
“We just came out and jumped on them,” Madison said. “We shot the ball real well. Broderick Robinson had a hot start for us. He scored seven points right off the bat.”
Robinson, despite getting into foul trouble in the first half, finished with a game-high 21 points, and he hit four of the Tigers’ eight 3-pointers. D.J. Wells and Greg Eccher added eight points apiece for Grand Junction (8-3).
Palisade 42, Rifle 38: The Bulldogs led the entire way, and after Rifle pulled within three points midway through the fourth quarter, Palisade hit its free throws and pushed its lead back to seven points. The Bulldogs made 8 off 11 free throws in the final frame.
“We played with a lead the whole game, and it was kind of refreshing,” Bulldogs assistant coach Greg Tafel said.
Skyler Miller led a balanced offense with nine points for Palisade (7-3, 5-0 Western Slope League). Jesus Aguirre followed with eight points.
Trent Brown led the Bears (3-7, 2-4) with 17 points.