Wildcats steal win against Cortez

The Fruita Monument High School girls basketball team has lost a few games this season it felt it should have won down the stretch.

For a change, the Wildcats may have stolen one from Montezuma-Cortez on Friday.

Cortez led for all but onea minute and 5 seconds. Fruita Monument was leading when it counted.

After trailing for all but 45 seconds in regulation, the Wildcats forced overtime, then used the free-throw line to defeat the Panthers 52-49.

“The last 30 seconds were the important ones,” Wildcats coach Dan Schmalz said.

It was a frustrating game for Schmalz because his team fell behind in different manners.

In the second quarter, Fruita Monument (7-9, 3-3 Southwestern League) couldn’t solve Cortez’s full-court press, failing numerous times to get the ball past half court (and on two occasions getting it over the line but being called for back court).

“That’s a press we should be able to break,” Schmalz said. “I don’t know why we didn’t.”

At halftime, he decided to make it simple.

“We broke it down into real small steps,” he said. “The girls don’t like it, but I guess it was effective.”

What wasn’t effective was their shooting, a season-long problem that continued in the third quarter.

Still, a good defensive effort allowed them to stay within 33-28 heading into the fourth quarter.

Having little success from the outside, Fruita Monument started working the ball inside more. That paid dividends as Taylor Johnson, Keila Utu and Mary McGee began scoring from close in.

McGee, battling a slight case of the flu, stepped up her game in the fourth quarter, especially on the defensive end, where she had 11 rebounds.

“I have a limited amount of games left,” the senior said in deciding to put her heart and soul into the home stretch of her career.

With Cortez leading 46-44, and seven seconds remaining in regulation, Cortez called timeout. The Wildcats chose an inbounds play to Johnson on the throw-in. She banked one in from two feet out to send the game into overtime.

In the overtime, Katie Lewis made one of two free throws to knot the game at 49-49.

The Wildcats forced a turnover. McGee was fouled in the act of shooting with 14 seconds remaining.

“I just took a couple of deep breaths,” she said.

She made both free throws.

After another turnover, Lewis was fouled on a fast break and made one of two.

“The ones from Mary were huge,” Schmalz said. “The one Katie had forced them into a shot they probably didn’t want to take.”

The Panthers were forced into a desperation shot that was off the mark.

“The overall effort in the fourth quarter was good,” Schmalz said.

Johnson led the Wildcats with 19 points and had 11 rebounds.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” McGee said of the victory.

The Wildcats close out the weekend at noon today against Durango.


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