Wildcats run past Cortez

Dylan Row of Fruita Monument is fouled on his way to the basket Saturday afternoon by Montezuma-Cortez’s Austin Bayles.

Fruita Monument High School’s boys basketball team opened the game with a 10-1 run Saturday and led the entire way in a 56-43 Southwestern League victory over Montezuma-Cortez.

The Wildcats forced six turnovers in the first two minutes and used a high-pressure, full-court press to disrupt the Panthers’ backcourt. Devin Winstanley, Dylan Row, Tyrelle Petersen and nearly every other player for Fruita Monument shot into a passing lane to create easy layups at the other end.

Taking a 21-6 lead after the first quarter, the Wildcats continued to push the pressure as Montezuma-Cortez started to make shots.

Matt Story sparked a late run with a breakaway, one-handed slam dunk midway through the second quarter, and Fruita Monument kept Montezuma-Cortez at arm’s length with a 27-19 lead at halftime.

Panthers’ forward Jonathan Walck pulled his team within three points midway through the third quarter with five points on back-to-back possessions before Story goaded Walck into his fourth foul on a play away from the ball.

From there, Fruita pulled away, thanks largely to limiting Montezuma-Cortez’s leading scorer, Brackin Whiteskunk. Whiteskunk, who finished with eight points, has two of his three lowest-scoring performances this season against the Wildcats. Fruita Monument applied double-teams and assigned a specific defender whose only focus was Whiteskunk. It forced Whiteskunk to turn the ball over seven times.

“We’ve played against (Whiteskunk) maybe five times in the last two years, and one time he did hurt us,” Wildcats coach Billy Dreher said. “We know that he’s their main scorer and go-to guy. You gotta know where he’s at at all times and can’t give him those free, easy looks that allow him to heat up. We’ve done a good job of containing him.”

Randy Haley led the Panthers with 10 points.

Row led Fruita Monument with 20 points and Winstanley added 13. Row hit three 3-pointers and got to the rim seemingly at will.

Winstanley said he and Row have built chemistry over the past two years.

“Me and Dylan work together well, and it seems that when one of us is feeling it, the other is feeling it as well,” Winstanley said. “When one of us is hitting shots, the other is stepping up and has that confidence.

“Everyone seemed to buy in to what we were doing tonight, and we need to do that every game, for sure. But I think, especially coming off a loss, everyone wanted it a little bit more.” 

After losing 61-56 to Durango on Friday when the Wildcats’ press struggled to remain disciplined, Dreher said it was nice to see the defense have chemistry Saturday.

“You know, obviously with different teams things work a little differently,” Dreher said. “We were rotating in guys trying to find that combination that worked, and we found one that got it done today.

“It was good that we got some guys in who don’t normally see a ton of minutes, and we got to work in a bunch of different guys on the defense.

“We felt our pressure could cause havoc, and we run some zone and some man with that full-court pressure constantly. That full-court pressure gave us some opportunities that really fed into our offense.”


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