Demons hang on late for thrilling win over Wildcats
What looked to be the makings of a blowout win Thursday night inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium quickly turned into a nail-biting affair in the fourth quarter, as the Glenwood Springs Demons boys basketball needed to hold off a furious rally from the visiting Fruita Monument Wildcats for a 63-59 win in a nonconference clash between 4A and 5A schools.
The last time the Demons and Wildcats met was back in December in the Greeley Invitational championship game at the University of Northern Colorado, where the Wildcats were able to take an 11-point halftime lead before picking up a 60-50 win on Dec. 16.
This time, the Demons made sure to write a different story as the fast-paced Glenwood squad came out fast, taking a 31-21 lead into the half thanks to a big second quarter from some clutch buckets from senior guard Aaron Smith, junior guard Angel Garcia and junior guard Wyatt Ewer. The trio took a 12-8 Glenwood lead after one quarter of play and stretched it to 31-21 as the three guards combined for 15 of Glenwood’s 19 points in the second quarter of action.
Riding a wave of momentum into the break thanks to consecutive 3-pointers from Garcia and junior guard Erwin Rodriguez to close the first half, Glenwood came out and shot the lights out in the third quarter, ripping off runs of 8-0 and 6-0 to stretch a 10-point lead at the half into a 17-point lead after three quarters of play.
“We talked at the half about the score being 0-0 coming out of the locker room against a team like that,” Glenwood Head Coach Cory Hitchcock said. “They’re never out of it. They’re a great 3-point shooting team and can really drive to the hoop. So we said we needed to keep playing great defense to make sure we kept the momentum and took opportunities away from them. I though the boys did a great job of coming out there in the third quarter with some hunger and some fire. Our rotations were looking good, and I think this was our best defensive effort of the year.”
Opening up action in the second half, junior center Holden Kleager hit a tough shot in the paint to get Glenwood going before senior guard AJ Crowley hit a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Smith then stole the ball on Fruita’s next possession and raced the length of the court for a layup and the foul, converting the 3-point play at the line to make it 39-21 Demons just over a minute into the second half.
Fruita answered with a quick 6-0 run of its own as sophomore forward Ian Barnes got a putback shot to fall off of an offensive board, while junior guard Blake Anderson and sophomore guard Jack Hawkins hit layups in traffic to pull Fruita back to within 12 points at 39-27.
Garcia then found himself at the free-throw line and split the pair of shots before Crowley hit a tough, twisting layup in traffic.
As the Demon offense heated up, so too did the defense, which led to Garcia’s first 3-pointer of the quarter, giving the home fans a sign of things to come as the junior pulled up from the left wing and buried the contested shot.
Moments later, Garcia again drilled a 3-pointer from nearly the same exact spot to make it 48-29 Glenwood. Following a layup at the other end by Fruita sophomore guard Marcus Labonde, Garcia went with the heat-check shot from the left wing again and found nothing by net for his third 3-pointer of the quarter, stretching Glenwood’s lead to 51-31, forcing a Fruita timeout.
“Oh, absolutely [this is the best basketball Angel’s played],” Hitchcock said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence, and I think it’s all started with his defense this year. He’s a completely different player this year defensively, and I think it’s helped his game offensively. When you just watch him at that end, he’s up in every guy and pressuring them. He’s working his tail off.
“Having him buy in defensively is huge not only for the program, but for him as a player. He’s continuing to grow more and more each game.”
The two teams would trade buckets out of the quick stoppage before Fruita senior forward Daren Davison splashed home a 3-pointer right before the buzzer to send the two teams into the fourth quarter with Glenwood holding a seemingly insurmountable 53-36 lead with 8 minutes to play.
Instead of playing the same brand of basketball that gave them the big lead after three quarters of play, Glenwood took its foot off the gas offensively, allowing Fruita to press defensively, forcing 8 fourth-quarter turnovers by the Demons to pull all the way back to within four points at 60-56, putting the outcome of the game in doubt minutes after it appeared to be all but over.
Holding a 60-56 lead and needing to beat Fruita’s press down the court, Glenwood turned to Smith and Crowley to avoid disaster, leading to two clutch free throws from Smith before Ewer found himself with the ball and split a pair of free throws to make it 63-56.
“I thought we played really timid in the fourth quarter, meaning we were playing not to lose rather than playing to win,” Hitchcock said. “When they started pressing us, we had guys who weren’t waiting for the screens on inbounds plays, and we had guys going away from the ball rather than going to the ball. We just didn’t execute down the stretch. I think the guys understand that we have to play a little more aggressive against a press and be confident in our abilities. I think we’ll see a difference in them moving forward.”
Labonde hit a 3-pointer with just under two seconds left, leading to a Fruita timeout, but Ewer streaked behind the Wildcats’ defense for the home run ball, allowing the Demons to dribble out the clock, securing a big win at home.
In the win, Smith and Garcia poured in 18 points each, while Crowley put up 14 points. As a trio, the three guards combined for 50 of Glenwood’s 63 points in the win. By defeating Fruita Monument, Glenwood improves to 13-3 (5-0 4A Western Slope League) on the season. The Demons will travel to Summit Saturday afternoon for a league tilt with the Tigers at 2 p.m.
Fruita Monument 48, Glenwood Springs 24
Just two days after starting the game against Steamboat on an 18-0 run, the Glenwood Springs Demons girls basketball team found itself on the wrong end of a big run to start Thursday’s nonconference contest against the Fruita Monument Wildcats, as the No. 1 team in the 5A RPI rankings raced out to a 17-2 lead in the first quarter before cruising to a 48-24 win over the short-handed Demons inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium.
Without standout center Tatum Peterson for the fourth straight game due to injury, the Demons didn’t really have an answer for the skill, strength and height advantage of the Wildcats as forwards Angelique Gall and Sitori Carver combined for 24 points in the paint, controlling the boards in the process over the scrappy Glenwood front court.
Following the 17-2 run to start the game that led to a 17-4 lead after one quarter of play, Fruita and Glenwood traded baskets in the second quarter as Glenwood junior guard Ximena Gutierrez knocked down a mid-range jumper to make it 17-6 before Fruita’s Mackenzie Wells answered with a 3-pointer to make it 20-6 Wildcats.
A steal and a layup from sophomore guard Natalya Taylor seemed to lite a spark in the Glenwood attack briefly as senior forward Dani DeCrow knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner to make it 22-11, but a quick 4-0 run to close the quarter by Fruita put the Demons in a 15-point hole after one half of play.
Senior forward Saylor Warren started off the second half quickly for the Demons with a great layup in traffic off of a slick feed from senior forward Ellie Moser, but the Wildcats responded with an 8-0 run in the third quarter and an 8-0 run in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win over Glenwood.
In the loss, DeCrow led the way for Glenwood with 8 points, drilling two 3-pointers.
Taylor added 7 points for Glenwood, while Warren chipped in with 6 points. Gall and senior guard Riley Snyder led the charge for the Wildcats with 18 and 13 points, respectively.
With the loss, Glenwood falls to 8-7 (3-2 4A WSL) on the season. The Demons travel to Summit Saturday afternoon for a matchup with the Tigers in 4A Western Slope action.
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Amid hundreds of cleat-footed little leaguers casually gathered along the first baseline, the glare of parents’ sunglasses deflecting the early morning sun, coach Troy Phillips began a trip down memory lane.