Wildcat girls eager to face early season challenge


Wildcat Invitational

At Fruita Monument High School

Thursday’s Games

Grand Junction vs. Cherokee Trail, 4 p.m.

Central vs. South Cheyenne, Wyo., 5:30 p.m.

Carbon County, Utah, vs. Basalt, 7 p.m.

Friday’s Games

Basalt vs. Fruita Monument C, 3 p.m.

Cherokee Trail vs. Central, 4:30 p.m.

Carbon County vs. Grand Junction, 6 p.m.

South Cheyenne vs. Fruita Monument, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday’s Games

Cherokee Trail vs. Fruita Monument, 10:30 a.m.

Basalt vs. Central, noon

South Cheyenne vs. Grand Junction, 1:30 p.m.

Carbon County vs. Fruita Monument, 3 p.m.

The invitations accepted by schools in Utah, Wyoming and Denver to play in this weekend’s Wildcat Invitational girls basketball tournament at Fruita Monument High School will make for a revealing early season tournament.

Some of the tournament’s field, which features Central, Grand Junction, Cherokee Trail, South Cheyenne, Wyo., and Carbon County, Utah, hardly are familiar with each other’s tendencies.

For Fruita (2-0), especially, the youthful players, such as sophomore starters Cassidy Fair and Vanessa Herrera, both of whom are about 5-foot-10 and average about five points and seven rebounds per game, will get valuable experience.

“It forces the kids to react and the coaches to work,” Fruita coach Dan Schmalz said of the mix of teams. “It should make for great games for everybody.”

The tournament runs Thursday through Saturday.

Fruita (2-0) plays South Cheyenne at 7:30 p.m., Friday and on Saturday, it takes on Cherokee Trail at 10:30 a.m. and Carbon County at 3 p.m.

Schmalz said Carbon, with a potent full-court press, speed and exceptional outside shooters, is constantly one of the top teams in Utah.

He added that because all but Montrose in the Southwestern League is likely to slap on a full-court press at least once during a game, he is fortunate to have an experienced guard who can handle the chaos.

Wildcats senior Jessica Sinner is a two-year starter with three seasons of varsity experience.

Lauren LaBonde, a senior, started last season as well.

“Girls basketball is so full-court press oriented and so having great guards really helps out the team,” Schmalz said. “I don’t think the press bothers (Sinner and LaBonde) much.”

That wasn’t the case in past seasons for Fruita, however.

“When we struggled a lot as a team, we’ve turned the ball over,” Schmalz said, “because we’re getting pressed and turn the ball away.”

Now it’s up to Sinner and LaBonde to build trust with the tall sophomore duo of Fair and Herrera, Schmalz said.


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