Big on bigs.
Fort Collins High School coach Monty Alcaraz knew if his Lambkins were going to avoid being upset in the opening round of the Class 5A boys basketball playoffs, they were going to have to stop Fruita Monument’s Javen Gumber.
Gumber will turn a lot of heads during the next five years at Air Force, but playing in the final game of his high school career Wednesday, the 6-foot-8 forward met his match – Brian Read and Jacob Pfaffinger.
The Lambkins didn’t let their relative lack of size hinder them hinder them in a 61-34 beating of Fruita Monument. After Gumber scored the game’s first two baskets, Read (6-6) and Pfaffinger (6-2) doubled down on the senior to limit him to his fourth-lowest scoring performance of the season.
Gumber finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and a block, shy of his 17.7 point-, 11.7 rebound-per-game average.
“I love testing myself, especially against a guy like Javen; he’s a really good player. Doing that was good for me,” Read said. “We thought of him as their No. 1 player. We really just focused on him because we knew they really didn’t have anyone else. There’s not much to say other than that.
“He got off to a hot start, but I just told myself I had to be more physical and not let him get positioning on me.”
Fruita Monument (13-11) controlled the pace and led Fort Collins 9-7 after the first quarter, but it was the second frame that did the Wildcats in. Of their 24 turnovers, nine were committed in the second quarter, allowing Fort Collins to flip momentum to a 37-13 advantage at the half.
If turnovers weren’t enough bad news for Fruita Monument, the second quarter is also when Fort Collins (16-8) started to make its 3-pointers – a staple of the Lambkins’ offense – knocking down three. Read scored 11 of his 17 points in the second.
“They were like sharks in the water. They sensed blood,” Wildcats’ coach Billy Dreher said. “We’ve seen it a couple of times this year where we start strong and then start turning the ball over. (Fort Collins) turned up the intensity and then started pressuring us more and more. All of the sudden, we have nine turnovers in the second quarter. I used three or four time outs to try and calm the guys down, but we kept turning it over.”
With Gumbler contained, eventually fouling out midway through the fourth quarter, Fruita Monument was forced to rely on 3-pointers to try and claw its way back, but the deep ball wasn’t falling. The Wildcats made three 3s on the night and two in the second half.
Kamren McKee tried to spark Fruita Monument, recording his five points and two rebounds in the second half. Trey Morrill did his part on the boards, grabbing nine to accompany his two points, but halftime deficit was too much to overcome.
Pfaffinger scored 12 points and snagged five rebounds for the Lambkins, who will play at Regis on Saturday in the second round.
For insight and analysis on athletics around Northern Colorado and the Mountain West, follow sports columnist Matt L. Stephens at twitter.com/mattstephens and facebook.com/stephensreporting. This story also appeared in the Grand Junction Sentinel.
Fruita Monument 9-4-14-7—34
Fort Collins 7-30-15-9—61
Fruita Monument (13-11) — Gumber 13, Brizzolara 8, McKee 5, Vidmar 4, Carlson 2, Morrill 2.
Fort Collins (16-8) — Read 19, Pfaffinger 12, Palacio 9, Elder 8, Murillo 8, Orozco 5.
3-pointers — Fruita Monument 3; Brizzolara 2, Gumber. Fort Collins 6; Elder 2, Murillo 2, Read, Orozco.