Wildcats can’t keep up with Boulder, get knocked out of Class 5A playoffs
The Fruita Monument High School boys basketball team had come too far to give up.
Friday night in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs, the Wildcats (15-9) fell behind by double digits in the first quarter to visiting Boulder. The Wildcats tried to mount several comebacks, but for every run Fruita made, the Panthers answered on their way to a 68-49 victory.
“We felt like they didn’t get our best effort,” Wildcats senior guard TJ Pollock said. “They came out with better intensity than us, and you could tell.”
Early on, the Wildcats displayed all the characteristics of an excited, young group playing in their first playoff game. The Wildcats had numerous close attempts early in the first quarter, but couldn’t seem to get anything to fall. Boulder was having its own offensive struggles, leading only 11-6 with three minutes remaining. At that point, Panthers point guard Riley Grabau took over and scored the final nine points of the quarter to give Boulder a 20-6 lead.
“In these kind of games you can’t miss easy shots,” Fruita Monument coach Dave Fox said. “It’s almost like a turnover, and when they are shooting well, and we are missing it on the inside, it steamrolls.”
Fruita got off to the right start in the second quarter as Steve Goff hit a 3-pointer. Boulder answered with back-to-back 3-pointers from Min Sung. The Panthers’ senior guard hurt Fruita all game, hitting five 3-pointers for 15 points.
“When you talked to other coaches they said (Boulder) is going to shoot a lot of threes,” Fox said. “We wanted to contain Sung because he can make shots, but we left him open too much.”
The Panthers continued to score, taking a 31-13 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter. But Fruita wouldn’t go away. The Wildcats went on a 10-1 run to close out the half and cut the deficit to 34-23 at halftime.
“It doesn’t matter how far we get down, we feel we are always in ball games,” Pollock said. “It was close, but we could never get over the hump.”
Fruita came out in the second half strong, looking to close the gap when Tyler Daniels hit a 3-pointer to bring the score to 36-28. Boulder got the ball right to Sung who again hit a 3-pointer on two straight possessions to give the Panthers a double-digit lead.
“It’s hard to play from behind especially when they are hitting 3s,” Fox said. “They did the things they had to do to win a basketball game.”
Fruita pulled to within 10 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter at 50-40, but Grabau controlled the final period, scoring nine of his game-high 21 points.
Regardless of how the game turned out, the Wildcats played a strong final game. Sophomore Drew Bridges was unstoppable at times inside, leading the Wildcats with 17 points. Pollock finished with only three points in his final game as a Wildcat, but commented on how great it was to play in an environment like Friday night’s.
“To see this many people in the gym this late in the season is unbelievable,” Pollock said. “I can’t believe how many people showed up, and it was touching to see that.”