Wildcats use balance to top Battle Mountain
When Dan Schmalz took over the Fruita Monument High School girls basketball program three years ago, his hope was to develop a bench that could contribute as much as the starters.
Saturday afternoon in the final game of the Wildcat Invite at Fruita Monument High School, the Wildcats showed signs they might be on their way to Schmalz’s goal in a 69-20 victory over Battle Mountain.
Fruita had four players in double figures, including reserve players Stephanie Long and Keila Utu.
“We have 11 girls who can all play,” Schmalz said. “When we came here three years ago we wanted to build the program and have girls who are on the varsity bench that can contribute. We are getting closer.”
Post players Long and Utu both had their way in the paint, as Long finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. Utu had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists. Taylor Johnson and Stephanie Stagg, the Wildcats’ starters in the post, were factors as well. Johnson had 11 points and eight rebounds and Stagg added eight points and nine rebounds.
“All of our post players played well,” Schmalz said. “Stephanie, Keila, Taylor and Stagg all played well and got easy shots.”
Utu said the Wildcats recognized before the game that they could have success down low against an undersized Battle Mountain team.
“We knew they didn’t have a lot of size,” Utu said. “We looked to the paint and tried to finish when we got chances.” After Friday night’s frustrating 44-36 loss to Carbon, Utah, Fruita needed a game to build its confidence. The Wildcats got right to work, building a 25-3 first-quarter lead. Sarah Hensley scored eight of her 12 points in the quarter. Fruita added another 15 in the second quarter to lead 40-11 at halftime.
“I wanted the girls to realize they were better than the team that showed up (Friday),” Schmalz said. “This was great medicine for Friday night, and I was happy with everyone’s effort.”
Fruita continued to roll in the second half, outscoring the Huskies 28-9. Utu led the way, scoring nine of her 11 points.
“It was a great team effort,” Utu said. “Nobody stood out and we all clicked.”
The Wildcats finished the tournament 2-1, and plays next weekend at the Montrose Tournament. Fruita has had its ups and downs this past weekend, but evened its record at 3-3.
“You have a base set before the season, but now you start to see where you are struggling,” Schmalz said. “We have to be more patient on offense and make sure we are boxing out.”
Central 59, Columbine 37
Central’s Amy Kame has the ability to score in a number of ways. The 6-foot senior scored 32 of the Warriors’ 59 points Saturday with everything from transition baskets to 3-pointers and midrange jump shots.
“I think she got into her groove,” coach Todd Dixon said. “She stressed a little against ThunderRidge and maybe tried to do too much. She’s the best finisher I’ve ever coached and you saw that.”
Kame also added 16 rebounds, eight steals, and three blocks. Kame suffered slow starts in the first two games of the Wildcat Invite, but caught fire early against the Rebels. Her eight first-quarter points allowed the Warriors to take a 13-2 lead.
“I was impressed with the energy after playing so hard the past two days,” Dixon said. “With our expectations this year, it was important to finish no less than 2-1 in this tournament.”
Columbine bounced back after the rough first quarter to cut the Warriors’ lead to 34-27 by the fourth quarter before the Warriors pulled away and outscored Columbine 25-10.
“We knew we had to finish strong,” Central’s Maddi Vana said. “It got close so we just worked together and finished strong.”