PALISADE (2/25/11) — For the winners, there were injury concerns, even as much-anticipated rematches awaited Saturday's championship games. The Rifle girls improved their undefeated record to 21-0, advancing to the 3A Western Slope District championship at 4 p.m. at Palisade High School, but Cortney Cordova's right (shooting hand) wrist injury in the waning moments of a 59-39 semifinal win over Gunnison dominated post-game conversations.
Same with the Roaring Fork boys, as Trae Moxley was helped off the court in the second quarter of the Rams' 41-36 come-from-behind win over Gunnison and did not return. Moxley declared he would be on the court for
the rubber match at 5:45 p.m. Saturday with Aspen, which rallied past Coal Ridge, 54-35, thanks to a 20-3 Skier third quarter.
Rifle girls 59, Gunnison 39
Though her post-game thoughts were on Cordova and her wrist injury (she was taken to the hospital and diagnosed with a severe sprain), Rifle Lady Bears coach Stephanie Heald was also full of praise for the work her post players, Tresa Berner, Hadyn Holgate, and especially Racheal Keithley, did among the tall trees of a Gunnison lineup that featured four players from 5-10 to 6-1. “It would be nice to have just one (player that tall),” Heald said with a wistful smile. “But our girls have faced that all season-long, and they just have a lot of heart.” Keithley recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds after a slow start.
The Bears were tied 9-9 three minutes into the first quarter when Cordova's three-pointer jump-started a 10-0 Rifle run, ending with a pair of treys by Makayla Wilkins and Cordova for a 19-9 lead at the end of the period. Gunnison (14-7) continued to grab most of the rebounds and with the 6-foot Kjirsten Nelson scoring 14, trailed 29-20 at halftime.
But Keithley scored 6 in the third and hauled down 5 boards as the Bears padded their lead by six to 43-28. The fourth quarter it was Berner's turn, scoring 7 of her 11 points (which included her last 5 free throws) and Wilkins added another trey to push the margin to 20 points before Cordova was injured on a drive to the basket. She was knocked to the floor and was unable to take the free throw, finishing with 15 points and 6 assists. Wilkins joined Keithley with 10 points. Nelson led the Cowgirls with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
About Saturday's championship with Olathe (17-3), which came closer than anyone else to upsetting Rifle's unblemished record with a 44-43 loss on the Pirates' home court in January, Heald said, “We're excited to play them again. I think this is the game everyone has been looking forward to.”
Roaring Fork boys 41, Grand Valley 36
The Cardinals (16-5) used 11 points from Trevor Smith and foul trouble for the Rams Jake Strack Loertscher in addition to the injury that sidelined Moxley to take a 22-17 halftime lead, but the Rams (13-7) cut it to 30-29 going into the fourth quarter. The teams traded leads down the stretch until Sam Carpenter took a pass from Dalton Handy and splashed a 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining for a 36-34 margin they wouldn't relinquish. Handy and Dakota Grett made 4 of 6 free throws in the final minute as the Rams outscored Grand Valley 12-6 in the last frame.
KMTS TO CARRY CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
The 3A WSL girls district championship game between Rifle (21-0) and Olathe (18-3), a rematch of the Lady Bears' 44-43 win January 22nd, will be broadcast on KMTS (99.1 and 96.7 FM and online at kmts.com) at 4 p.m. Saturday, followed by the Roaring Fork (13-7), Aspen (14-7) boys championship at 5:45. The Rams won the first game between the teams, 62-56 in January and the Skiers retaliated with a 56-53 win February 11th.
4A first-round results
The Moffat County girls were the only 4A Western Slope team to advance Friday, with a 44-43 overtime win over Erie. The Glenwood Springs girls fell 54-40 to Golden and Delta lost 61-46 to Thompson Valley. The Glenwood boys lost to Thomas Jefferson, 50-33, the second straight season the Spartans ousted GSHS from the state tournament. The only other WSL boys team, Steamboat Springs dropped a 55-27 decision to defending 4A champion Sierra.