The Fruita Monument High School girls basketball team’s return from a difficult-but-perfect trip to Utah went as well as the Wildcats could have hoped.

The Wildcats topped the defending Class 5A champions of Utah as well as another Final Four team last week. In the safe confines of their home arena Thursday for the opening night of the annual Wildcat Classic, it wasn’t always pretty, but they were as effective as usual, defeating Pine Creek 44-26.

“We’re in a pretty good spot, but there’s still some work to do,” Fruita Monument coach Michael Wells said. “In the first quarter, it was decent defensively but poor on the boards. We just couldn’t finish. If we were playing a team that finished a little better, we could’ve been down at half.

“Plenty of things to clean up, but sometimes, you win games ugly, but the end of the day, the final score is what dictates your success in this deal. We’ll take where we’re at.”

Callie Allen was dominant for the Wildcats (5-0), who have held three of their opponents to 27 points or fewer. Her 10 first-quarter points helped Fruita take a 13-4 lead and allow the ’Cats to lead the game wire-to-wire. She finished with a team-high 12 points.

The Eagles (0-4) had no answer for her presence in the paint for much of the night, especially early.

“We always expect a lot of contact to go through, so we’ve been practicing for that all week,” Allen said. “We still have two more difficult games to get through. We’ve got to look past what we’ve done and keep going.”

Pine Creek went on a 6-0 run to trim Fruita’s lead to 15-10 in the second quarter. However, Kylie Wells’ 3-pointer from the left wing was followed immediately by a breakaway layup by Lauren Hansen to push the lead to 20-10 with 3 minutes left before halftime.

Bailey Rigsby added a 3-pointer from a similar spot as Wells’ to send the Wildcats to the locker room with a 24-10 lead after a 9-0 run.

Rigsby and Wells scored 9 and 7 points, respectively.

Rigsby credits the Wildcats’ defensive tactics for creating fast-break opportunities throughout the game.

“The biggest thing that has been helping us get these wins this season has been our defense,” Rigsby said. “It’s kind of hard to beat us when we’re running and jumping everywhere. We have guards who can finish and shoot and we have Callie to finish the chip-ins and stuff like that. The defense is definitely the key thing helping us.”

The Eagles once again tried to bring competitiveness to the affair, closing the deficit to 28-18 to start the third quarter. Fruita’s response? Another 9-0 run to end a quarter, sparked by layups by Allen, Wells and Rigsby.

Fruita carried itself with the swagger of a team coming off a confidence-boosting trip.

“(Winning that tournament in Utah) told us that we belong with some really good teams,” Michael Wells said. “If we play the way we’re taught and the way we’re supposed to play, we can be pretty successful against the highest-level teams.”

The Wildcats face Castle View tonight at 7:30 p.m.

“We’ve got another chance to hopefully clean some things up and get ready to go,” Wells said.

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