Wildcats coming together
Patience has paid off for Fruita Monument girls basketball team
All it took a was a little time.
With 10 games in its first 19 days together, the Fruita Monument girls basketball team and coach Michael Wells didn’t have time to firmly implement a system.
After a 1-7 start, the Wildcats are 6-3 during their past nine games and sit behind only Montrose in the Southwestern League standings.
It all boils down to practice time and a chance to establish his system, Wells said.
“I said all along that I wasn’t as concerned with our record as I was with the process,” he said. “Once we get the kids in place, wins will come. And now we’re heading that way.
“It’s a credit to the kids buying into it and doing what you ask. As a coach, that’s your goal, to develop them both on the court and off the court. We’re trying to build the total kid.”
The Wildcats (7-10, 3-1 SWL) have had to overcome drastic changes in style after three coaching changes in three years. Add to that losing former SWL player of the year Lauren LaBonde to graduation, this entire season has been an experiment.
But it’s safe to say Fruita Monument is buying into Wells’ more structured style, with decisive wins over Durango, Montezuma-Cortez and Central, as well as a close battle with league-leading Montrose.
“They are adjusting to a structure system and buying in, and we’re getting the repetitions (in practice),” Wells said. “They had a less structured system last year, and I’m not that way. I expect you to be at a certain place both offensively and defensively.”
A recruiter from Colorado Northwestern Community College was present during Fruita Monument’s 42-29 win over Central on Jan. 24 to scout, and talk with, Wildcats forward Kassidy Fair.
Although Fair said she’s not sure where she will attend college, she mentioned she has talked to several schools about playing basketball, including a handful of NCAA Division II schools.
Fair’s older brother, Spencer, is a kickoff specialist for the Western State Colorado University football team.
Talk about setting the stage.
After a winless season two season ago, the Central boys basketball team (5-12, 0-4 SWL) has steadily improved to a hot-and-cold team that still has the potential to be dangerous in SWL play.
A big part of the danger comes from a group of freshmen who, because of injuries and low participation numbers, have seen varsity playing time this season.
Kyle Blair started the season as the Warriors’ sixth man, and he is Central’s fourth-leading scorer, averaging 6.6 points per game. He’s one of the best young shooters in the SWL, with the ability to hit from anywhere on the floor. Blair has missed the past two games with a strained groin muscle, but coach Ryan Hayden said Blair will probably return Friday against Montrose.
Julio Galindo also has benefitted from a shallow bench at Central. Galindo started at point guard during the Warriors’ 66-33 loss to Grand Junction on Jan. 21 and was one of two players to lead Central with eight points. He also demonstrated some level of bravery. Listed at 5-foot-8, Galindo wasn’t afraid to dribble inside toward Tigers center D.J. Wells, who is nearly a foot taller.
“(Galindo) started out on the freshman team and JV,” Hayden said. “Now he’s doing a really good job. He’s a tremendous ball handler. His presence and calmness on the floor is nice to have.”
Hayden added the two have worked out the freshman jitters and have learned the plays, so he has no issue putting them in the lineup.
“I trust the heck out of those two guys,” Hayden said.
Add to the mix Koby Steves and Hunter Kelchner, who have seen varsity playing time, and junior varsity player Nolan Scott and the Warriors have some serious potential in a powerful freshman class.
“Oh man, they’re just a great group,” Hayden said. “They have the potential to be special. What they’re going to be like in a couple years is fun to think about. They’ve complemented the pieces we have right now so well.”
Statewide, the Grand Valley girls basketball team has a top-10 defense.
Sitting alone in first place in the Class 3A Western Slope League, the Cardinals (8-3, 7-1 WSL) are allowing the fewest points, making the most 3-pointers and blocking the most shots per game in the league. The Cardinals are also in the WSL’s top three for points, rebounds, assists and steals per game, and they’re tops in free-throw percentage.
All of that without having a top-five scorer in the league.
The Cardinals have seven players averaging at least four points per game, highlighting their depth. Four players — Ashlynn Speakman, Haley Johnson, Kyra Chenoweth and Jordan Scott — average at least seven points per game and make up a talented core for the yet-to-be ranked Cardinals.