Wildcat sweet: Fruita Monument boys advance to Class 5A Sweet 16
The Fruita Monument High School boys basketball team’s Class 5A second-round playoff game against Gateway lived up to expectations.
Saturday night, the Wildcats had to grind, scratch, hustle and fight their way to a 46-31 victory.
“We had to win this game,” Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said. “The part that makes me really satisfied is the way we did it, It wasn’t easy and we had to grind it out and keep battling, but that’s the type of kids we have.”
Fruita Monument (17-6) knew it wasn’t going to be easy. In the first quarter, the Wildcats struggled offensively, starting the game 1 of 13 from the field.
With the Wildcats unable to score, Gateway (17-8) led 9-0 with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
“I’m not going to lie, I was nervous because we couldn’t score,” Fox said. “I was thinking, how are we going to get any points?’ “
Cody Daniels ended the Wildcats’ scoring drought with a jumper but Fruita didn’t score the rest of the quarter and trailed 9-2.
Gateway’s man-to-man defense and overall team athleticism caused the Wildcats trouble early. Fox said offensive opportunities that had existed all season weren’t there.
“We couldn’t get anything easy,” Fox said. “Once we got a rebound, there was no one to outlet to, and (Gateway) was getting back quickly.
“So we had to go into the teeth of their defense on every possession.”
Fruita Monument responded to its slow first quarter by returning to its bread-and-butter approach. Using their up-tempo game, the Wildcats took their first lead at 12-10 after a steal and layup by Tyler Daniels.
“The running game was the key,” Fox said. “We started getting some easy layups and shots.”
Cody Daniels closed the first half by hitting a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 15-13 halftime lead.
Fruita Monument opened the second half with a 3-pointer from Alex Padgett to take a 18-13 lead.
“This game was huge,” Padgett said. “We didn’t play as well as we could have but our defense kept it in it.”
The third quarter was back and forth with late back-to-back buckets from Drew Bridges giving Fruita a 26-24 lead after three quarters. Bridges started slow, but finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
“We had to keep playing hard,” Bridges said. “The intensity was great out there.”
Fruita Monument seized control in the fourth quarter by going on a 10-2 run that was capped by a James Lewis jumper with three minutes remaining.
Tyler Daniels made 6 of 6 free throws down the stretch to close out the game.
“This was big for our program,” Fox said. “I’m really happy with their effort and it’s nice to make it to the Sweet 16.”
Padgett added 12 points and Tyler Daniels finished with 10 points.
The Wildcats advance to play Wednesday at No. 1 Highlands Ranch.
“We wanted to win a postseason game to make a statement that we can play with Denver teams,” Bridges said. “I thought we did that tonight.”
Fruita Monument started off the night with a moment of silence for 1991 graduate Amy Largent Schutter, who played under Fox, and recently passed away.