Wildcats drop Bulldogs in season opener

fruita’s stephanie long, back, and Taylor Johnson fight for possession of the ball with Palisade’s Kailie Wallace on Wednesday night during the Wildcats’ 56-33 victory over the Bulldogs.

Establishing an inside game against the Fruita Monument High School girls basketball team is not going to be an easy task this season.

Just ask Palisade, which tried to challenge the Wildcats in the paint Wednesday night in both teams’ season opener at Palisade. Fruita, though, was too big and too strong, and mixed that inside strength with good outside shooting in a 56-33 victory.

“We have a couple of enforcers and a shot blocker and two girls who are not going to let you get the ball up, and that’s what we want them to do,” Fruita Monument coach Dan Schmalz said. “It’s not going to be easy when they come in.”

With 5-foot-11 junior Taylor Johnson blocking nine shots and scoring 12 points, the Wildcats held off a third-quarter push by the Bulldogs to put the game away.

“She has good timing and I think she’s got long arms and long legs and she gets up,” Schmalz said.

Johnson blocked a half-dozen shots in the first half when Palisade was trying to go inside, and did most of her scoring in the second half, with eight of her 12 points.

Sarah Hensley triggered the offense by hitting four 3-pointers and scoring 17 points for the Wildcats, and Stephanie Long hit all six of her shots in the paint to add 12 points off the bench.

Fruita led 26-15 at halftime, using an effective half-court trap to create several turnovers.

Palisade, though, got a pair of 3-pointers from Meghan Peters to cut the lead to 29-23 with 5:02 to play in the third quarter.

Hensley answered with a 3 and scored off a rebound as part of a 15-4 Fruita Monument run to take a 44-27 lead into the final quarter.

Both teams were ragged at times, typical for the first game of the season, but now the coaches have a game film to break down and work on specific areas.

“We have one day to practice and then two more games, so it’s a quick turnaround,” Schmalz said.

Palisade has a full week to prepare for its next game, in Fruita’s Wildcat Invitational.

Fruita plays Friday at Fairview in Boulder and at Monarch on Saturday afternoon.

“I think the big jump will be from the first game to the second game,” Schmalz said. “We will definitely have some things to work on, some focus points.”


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