GYPSUM (1/11/18) – The students were standing, the crowd inside the gym known as the Devils’ Inferno was roaring with every possession, clutch free throw, or dramatic 3-pointer. The playoff atmosphere through the final minutes of Eagle Valley’s ten-point comeback for a 76-74 victory over the visiting Rifle boys challenged the fact that the two teams on the floor had just four wins in a combined 21 games.
It is a testament to the spirit of competition and also the free-wheeling style displayed by the home team that 50-points were amassed in that final quarter — Nothing like the workmanlike 49-24 easy victory by the Lady Bears in the night’s previous game, as the Rifle girls improved to 3-0 in Western Slope play and 9-1 for the season.
EAGLE VALLEY 76, RIFLE BOYS 74
Entering the contest between the now 4-8 Devils (2-0, WSL) and Rifle’s 1-10 Bears (0-4), Eagle Valley had attempted the astounding total of 528 shots beyond the 3-point arc. By contrast, Rifle had taken 55. So when the visitors opened the game 5-0, used a 6-0 start to the second quarter for a 14-point lead that eventually peaked at 16, and even led by twelve with 4:30 left in the game, the Devils just continued to fire from long range with intermittent success.
Despite two 3-pointers by Raul Pereida and another by Carlos Quezada in sixteen long-distance missiles, a 3-pointer by Jacob Seeman gave Rifle a 20-12 first-quarter lead. Three different Devils connected on treys in the second period, but Rifle, led by Tido Ruiz’s 6-for-6 showing at the free throw line and five points from Evan Gray, put up a second straight 20-point quarter and led 42-31 at halftime.
Jacob Medina’s second 3-pointer of the third quarter helped fuel a 9-0 final 3-minute run to draw the Devils within four, 52-48.
However, Darien Church assisted on baskets by Joel Lopez and Ruiz, while sinking two free throws himself, extending the lead to 61-50 two minutes into the final frame.
Pereida, who would tally 25 points on 5-of-20 three-point shots before fouling out, then triggered another Devil resurgence, nailing a pair of treys and two free throws to slice a 12-point Bear advantage to four again with 3:18 remaining. Quezada, who missed his next eight 3-point tries after that initial first-quarter shot, kept firing, making two bombs in the final four-and-a-half minutes, including one that trimmed Rifle’s lead to 68-67 with 2:20 to go.
Thirty-five seconds later, Pereida’s jumper tied the game for the first time but Seeman’s trey from the baseline put the Bears back in front, 72-69 with 1:30 left. No matter, Jesse Moser, one of five Devils to sink multiple 3-pointers in the contest, knotted the score, only to see Blake Swasey make a pair of pressure-filled free throws despite the deafening cacophony coming from the throats and feet of the Inferno crowd as Pereida fouled out with 60 seconds remaining.
Forty seconds later, Quezada surprised the Bears by passing inside to Tony Hernandez for an inside shot to tie the score at 74. With a chance to take a final-winning shot, the Bears yielded their 30th turnover of the contest on a steal by Hernandez, who was fouled and made both free throws with eight seconds left. Seeman got a shot off from the corner that would have won it, but misfired, triggering an Eagle Valley fan gauntlet of celebration for the Devil players.
For the contest, the gun-slinging Devils made 15-of-53 three-pointers, taking a total of 77 shots to 42 by the Bears, who compensated by making 27-of-36 free throws. Lopez led the Bears with 16 points and 11 rebounds; Seeman added 12 points, Ruiz 10, Gray 9, and Trey Lujan 8. Swasey tallied 6 points to go with 8 boards.
Quezado had 12 points for the Devils, making 3-of-12 treys; Medina’s 3-for-8 from beyond the arc accounted for all nine of his points with Hernandez, Moser, and Xaver Johnson each scoring eight.
RIFLE GIRLS 49, EAGLE VALLEY 24
The Rifle Lady Bears played true to form, as did the Lady Devils, both nearly matching their season point totals, although Eagle Valley’s Regan Bossow made things interesting by sinking three, 3-pointers in the first half. The Bears put leading scorer Elly Walters on the 5-9 senior in the second half and Bossow was held to no points on one shot attempt.
Walters accounted for six straight points early in the first quarter on a put-back and a pair of assists to Katy Manuppella. A pass from Karly Manuppella to Masi Smith broke the Devils’ press for a layup and an 8-1 lead. Bossow hit back-to-back treys between a steal and layup by Katy Manuppella, then a Bossow jumper with 2:15 left trimmed the margin to 10-9. But Walters answered with a deep 3-pointer and Smith’s inside shot gave Rifle a 15-9 quarter lead.
The Rifle defense held Eagle Valley scoreless for the first six minutes of the second period while another Walters’ triple and a conventional three-point play by Smith keyed an 8-0 stretch for a 23-9 lead. Bossow hit her last 3-pointer between a pair of uncontested layups by Joslin Blair for a 7-0 comeback by the Devils before a driving layup from Walters gave Rifle a 25-16 advantage at the half.
The third quarter was more of the same, as Walters limited Bossow to one failed shot and her teammates went 0-for-6 in the quarter, tallying just a pair of free throws as the Bears built their lead to 40-18. Coach Kristy Wallner cleared the bench in the final frame after Smith scored the Bears’ first 6 points on her way to a season-high 16, to go with 7 rebounds.
Walters scored 13, with 7 boards and 6 assists, with Katy Manuppella adding a dozen points. Bossow’s first-half 11 points and 7 rebounds led the Devils, who fell to 2-10 (0-2 WSL) for the season with their seventh straight loss. The Bears (9-1, 3-0) have won six straight and travel to Montrose for a non-league game Saturday.