The Montrose-Fruita Monument girls hoops game Friday night was textbook Southwestern League basketball, according to Lady Indians coach Steve Skiff.
A knockdown, drag-out fight for four quarters was on display inside a loud, packed Lloyd McMillan Gymnasium as the Montrose High School girls basketball team (18-5; 5-3 in SWL) was able to edge out the Wildcats, 45-44.
MHS was led by Ally Nichols with 14 points — and the go-ahead basket with 15 seconds left in the game — while Kennadie Minerich added 11.
“Southwestern League games have been going like that forever,” Skiff said, praising the MHS band and student section giving his team a home-court advantage. “A big credit to my team, they came out and played an amazing basketball game tonight.”
The Lady Indians helped their chances in securing an SWL title as they entered a three-way tie with Fruita and Grand Junction who lost Friday night. Skiff said he isn’t sure how the tiebreaker would work but, no matter the outcome, was proud of how his players finished the regular season.
All this happened after a senior night, honoring Montrose’s Brenna Moss and Michaela Ladage.
The duo goes way back, as they either played with or against each other since sixth grade, around the time they started to be coached by Skiff.
“(The night) was really important for us,” Moss said. “It was good to be honored.
Added Ladage: “It was huge that we were able to get his win. It makes it really special for us because Brenna and I have been playing together for so long.”
The Montrose coach was thrilled that his seniors were able to win on a special night.
“They’ve met so much for this program and it’s nice to see them win a game like this,” Skiff said.
The contest was close throughout as both units traded the lead back and forth.
Montrose, however, started off the game strong, scoring the first eight points of the game. Fruita responded by closing out the quarter with a 9-1 run. The score was tied after one.
The Lady Indians led most of the second period, but the Wildcats took a 23-20 advantage late in the quarter. The hosts took back the lead heading into halftime on back-to-back possessions in which Minerich knocked down a 3-pointer and Nichols scored on a layup.
Montrose led 25-23 at halftime.
The Wildcats came out of the locker room on fire as they outscored the Lady Indians, 12-6, in the third period. The visitors had a 35-31 advantage going into the final frame.
The contest was close the rest of the way as neither team had more than a one-possession lead.
That was the case as the Wildcats had led 44-43 with 32 seconds remaining. But with the game on the line, the Lady Indians looked for Nichols to help seal the win. Ladage passed the ball inside to the Montrose center, who despite being surrounded by Fruita defenders, was able to rattle it in.
The visitors had a chance at the buzzer to win, but Montrose used its tried-and-true defense to prevent the Wildcats’ win.
The Indians didn’t just win on senior night but broke a three-game losing streak before the playoffs.
“We just wanted to come out and play basketball tonight and cut it lost,” Skiff said. “Maybe we were overthinking stuff but tonight we just wanted to come out and play basketball in front of our home fans.”
The players said such a victory will help them going forward.
“We just want to enter the playoffs on a high note,” said Ladage, who finished with seven points. “We’ve been on a downhill slope the last three games but we wanted to close the regular season with a W.”
Now, Montrose waits to see who it faces in the postseason.
Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.