CARBONDALE (2/19/11) — Facing the last basketball game on their home court, Roaring Fork’s two seniors were struggling: Jake Strack Loertscher was on the bench with foul trouble, and Dalton Handy, who scored 25 points, including the game-winner, in an overtime win at Coal Ridge the night before, had just two at halftime in a duel with Rifle for a home playoff spot.
Meanwhile, the embattled Bears, whose three-straight losses had loosened their hold on the 3A Western Slope North division lead, used the energized play of seniors Rian Creech, Taylor Boone, and Von Church to surge ahead by 11 in the second quarter and still maintained a four point lead going into the fourth period.
But Strack Loertscher scored 10 points in that quarter before fouling out with 43 seconds left, and the Rams went into overtime for the third time in their last four games, with Handy’s three-pointer with four seconds remaining in the second OT providing the game-winner, 76-73.
“Jake’s the ultimate teammate,” Handy said afterwards, “and when he fouled out, we knew we had to pick it up for him. Trae Moxley especially stepped up,” scoring six of the Rams’ eight points in the first overtime, “and I had all day (to line up the game-winner from the left corner) after a great screen from Trent Reeds,” Handy said. “I was fortunate it fell through.”
The win gives the Rams (9-4 WSL, 12-7 overall) a home playoff game with Olathe (6-7, 8-11) on Tuesday and forces the Bears (8-5, 9-10) into a play-in game with Basalt on Monday in Rifle.
The first quarter of Saturday’s game featured eight lead changes and four ties, but Rifle scored the final six points for a 23-17 lead going into the second. Church, who sat out the Bears’ 49-39 loss at Aspen Tuesday for disciplinary reasons, sank his third 3-pointer in four tries early in the second period as Rifle took an 11-point lead.
The Bears still led by ten two minutes before halftime, but Handy’s only first-half basket and a put-back by Moxley trimmed the lead to six. The Rams drew within two, 50-48, as Handy sank a driving jumper for his seventh points of the third quarter, but Creech converted a pass from Taylor Webb just before the buzzer to extend the lead to four.
Roaring Fork finally regained the lead as Dakotah Grett hit a trey and Strack Loertscher scored and was fouled with 5 minutes to go in regulation. But the Rams’ troubles at the line continued as he missed the chance at a 3-point play. Roaring Fork was just 5 of 16 on its free throws including that miss.
The Bears had a chance to win the game following a lane violation, resulting in a technical foul by the Rams, while Boone was shooting (and missing) his second free throw with 43 seconds remaining. Boone made good on the extra opportunity, tying the game at 63, but Creech missed both technical free throws and Rifle couldn’t score on the ensuing possession, forcing the first overtime.
Both teams had brief leads in OT, the Rams leading by four when Handy hit a couple of free throws with two minutes to go, but Boone’s pass to Creech cut the lead to two, and Webb stole the ball from Handy and scored the tying layup with 55 seconds left. The Rams again turned the ball over, but Church’s three-point try at a game-winner didn’t fall.
In the second four-minute overtime, Creech put Rifle ahead with a pair of free throws, but Handy’s drive tied the score at 73 with 1:38 remaining. Both teams had shots blocked in the final 30 seconds, the last one resulting in a jump ball and possession to Roaring Fork. Grett and Handy played catch until Reeds’ screen set Handy up for the winning shot from the left-corner baseline. Rifle was granted a time out and two seconds put back on the clock, but Webb’s desperate heave failed.
Moxley led four Rams in double-figure scoring with 18 and grabbed 13 rebounds. Handy, who also had 6 assists, and Strack Loertscher each scored 16, with Grett adding 13. Creech scored 26 to lead all scorers and pulled down 11 rebounds; Church added 15, and Boone 12 with 9 rebounds. Rifle’s Austin Booth, who passed away during the season, was awarded the basketball officials sportsmanship award, with his family receiving a standing ovation as they accepted it.
“Winning these back-to-back overtime games gives us confidence we can pull through with that kind of pressure,” Handy commented on the narrow victories that gave the Rams’ two seniors one more home game.
BEARS ADVANCE TO DISTRICTS OVER BASALT
RIFLE (2/21/11)After losing four straight games, the Rifle Bears decisively defeated Basalt, 63-47, and now will travel to Parachute Tuesday for a district match-up with Grand Valley (10-3, 15-4) at 7 p.m. The winner of that game moves on to Friday’s semi-finals at Palisade High School. The loser plays the loser of Tuesday’s Olathe-Roaring Fork game at the site of the higher seed on Thursday. The Rams are seeded number 2, Olathe is 3, and Rifle is 4, so the Bears will be on the road regar