PALISADE (2/24/12) — Rifle Lady Bears coach Stephanie Heald had her notepad out during Olathe\'s afternoon semifinal game in hopeful anticipation that her team might meet the top-ranked Pirates in Saturday\'s 3A Western Slope District basketball championship. Several hours later, the matchup was complete, but it wasn\'t easy getting there, Rifle surviving a fourth-quarter Grand Valley rally to defeat the Cardinals, 48-45.
The Roaring Fork boys were challenged by an upset-minded Rifle team, but used a balanced attack and strong fourth quarter to get past the Bears, 47-34, and will meet number-one Aspen, which cruised past Coal Ridge 56-32 in Saturday\'s championship.
All the semifinal teams, plus Saturday\'s consolation winners will advance to regional play next weekend.
RIFLE GIRLS 48, GRAND VALLEY 45
Grand Valley endured a rocky stretch this season when six girls missed some games for disciplinary reasons, but the Cardinals played one of their best games of the season in advancing to the semifinals with a 48-23 win over Coal Ridge to meet a Rifle team they lost to by three points in the season opener, then were beaten 38-16 with several starters missing in January.
This time coach Mike Johnson\'s team was at full strength and wouldn\'t let the Bears (18-3) put them away. Rifle twice led by seven points in the third quarter, including 33-26 with 3:10 remaining. But 5-4 sophomore Ashlynn Speakman rebounded a teammate\'s missed three-pointer for a put-back, Hayley Johnson scored an inside basket to cut the margin to three. Jasmine Figueira sank a jumper, but Johnson fed Jazmin McFarland for an inbounds score and dropped in a three to tie the score at 35 going into the final quarter.
Rifle appeared to take control, scoring the first 5 points when Figueira drove and dished to Chante Church and Joey Kuheim for layups, the latter turning into a 3-point play with the foul. But Rocio Roman hit a pair of three-pointers around a Kristen Schubert steal and layup to give Grand Valley a 43-40 lead with 6:25 to play.
Heald called a time out, and two minutes later Church dropped in her only trey in six attempts to regain the lead for good, 45-44. The Cardinals had several chances to tie or take the lead, but after Schubert made one of two free throws with 3:29 remaining, they wouldn\'t score again. The Bears would only add a single free throw themselves, but it was enough to hold on for the win, 48-45.
Church led the Bears with 19, Ashley Rickstrew added 12, and Kuheim had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Figueira scored 7, with 5 assists and 3 steals. Speakman and Johnson had 12 each for the Cardinals with Roman and Schubert each scoring 8. The Cardinals (11-10) play Gunnison (7-14) for third place at 12:30 Saturday at Palisade High School. The Lady Bears meet Olathe (19-2) for the District championship at 4 p.m. Rifle lost its only matchup with the Pirates, 36-33 on January 19. In that game, Church broke her wrist attempting to retrieve a loose ball, returning to action last weekend.
ROARING FORK BOYS 47, RIFLE 34
Rifle (9-13) upset the south division champion Olathe Pirates, 54-52 to reach the semifinals and clinch a berth in next week\'s regional playoffs and took an early 6-2 lead on the Rams (15-6), holding on for a 6-5 first quarter advantage. But Trae Moxley got going in the second quarter, scoring 9 points and a trey but Clay Gross with 3:10 left before halftime gave Roaring Fork its first lead, 12-9.
The Rams maintained that margin, 19-16 at the half and pushed the lead to 7 on a 3-pointer by Trent Reeds with 1:15 left in the third. A layup by Triston Quigley reduced the lead to 31-26 going into the final frame.
Reeds fed Sam Carpenter for a three to open the fourth quarter, starting a 10-2 run that included another Carpenter trey, an assist from Reeds to Moxley and a layup by Reeds for a 41-28 lead that wouldn\'t be challenged in the final four minutes.
Reeds and Moxley (who also had 11 rebounds) each scored 13 to lead the Rams with Carpenter adding 10 and Gross 7. Taylor Webb led the Bears with 7, followed by 6 from Trenton Brown.
The Bears play Coal Ridge (9-12) for third place at 2:15 Saturday. Roaring Fork challenges first-place Aspen (17-4) for the District championship at 5:45.
ASPEN BOYS 56, COAL RIDGE 32
Aspen, which has won five straight since its only league loss at Olathe, 45-38, left no doubt about its semifinal match with Coal Ridge, outscoring the Titans 15-2 in the first quarter and building a 29-7 halftime lead. The Titans, who missed all 12 of their three-pointers in the game, outscored Aspen 15-11 in the third period, but Austin Roark opened the fourth quarter with a triple, followed by Jake Nugent\'s put-back for a 55-22 lead.
The Skiers limited Coal Ridge to 12-for-52 shooting and outrebounded the Titans, 45-23 in a dominating performance after they just got by Gunnison, 60-56 in Wednesday\'s quarterfinal game at home.
Nugent led the scoring with 18 and added 10 rebounds. Roark had 11 and James Powell 9 (on 3 of 4 three-pointers). Daniel Amador had a well-rounded game with 6 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 2-of-4 three pointers. Darik Brown led the Titans with 11 points.