GRAND JUNCTION (2/20/16) – The goal for the Rifle Bears against high-flying Durango was a 4A district championship game “in the 30’s,” said boys basketball coach Roger Walters, and his team more than delivered on the defensive end. But Durango, seeded number one coming down from the 5A Southwestern League, got loose just long enough in the third quarter to drill four 3-pointers and wrest the game-long lead from Rifle, and eventually the Western Slope district title, 29-26.

“It hurts because this one meant something,” Walters said afterward, refraining to say anything about the barrage of whistles that saw his team with an uncharacteristic 19 turnovers for the game.

While the Demons (16-7), who had topped 70 points in both previous tourney games, managed to attempt just 13 shots in the first half, Rifle (19-4), led by 11 combined points from Jacob Boone and Avery Lujan in the second quarter, took a 17-11 lead at intermission.

Luis Carreon drove to the basket to increase the lead to eight before the 3’s began to fall for Durango. Carreon scored on another layup and fed Morgan Robinson to maintain a 23-17 lead with 4:30 to go in the third, but the Bears were whistled for five consecutive infractions and wouldn’t score for the rest of the quarter. Meanwhile Luis Baken and Terrance Trujillo turned a missed free throw into a 3-point possession when Rifle lost the rebound and Boone, utilizing his season-long jump stop move in the paint was called for traveling. That allowed Scott Morse to connect for his third trey of the game and tie the score at 23 after Rifle had led the entire contest.

A Carreon steal was negated with another violation and Baken sank Durango’s fourth 3-pointer of the quarter for a 26-23 lead going into the last period. That would also be the last basket the Demons would score, and they also missed 7 of their ten free throws in the final eight minutes, but the three they made would be enough.

Boone found Blaine Vance open inside on the Bears’ opening possession to trim the lead to one, but that would be Rifle’s final basket with 7:45 left in the game. Orien Clay, Durango’s leading scorer, made a free throw, giving him just 3 points for the game, and Eduardo Ruiz matched it, making the score 27-26 Demons with 6:20 remaining.

Rifle never scored again and Durango managed to sink two of eight free throws the rest of the way for the final margin. Boone was flagged twice more for traveling and Lujan and Vance missed 3-pointers for the lead as both teams went five minutes without a score.

Trujillo, after missing three free throw tries, broke the drought with 40 seconds left for a two-point lead. Carreon’s drive to tie didn’t reach the net and Trujillo again made 1-of-2 from the line with 20 seconds to go.

The Bears were called for double-dribble with 6 seconds left, fouled Baken, but he missed both free throws and Eduardo Ruiz got the rebound. Carreon’s desperate bank shot from the top of the key had a chance, but was a touch too hard and fell off the front of the rim as time expired.

Morse had 11 to lead all scorers and Baken and Carreon each scored nine. Boone, who had 7 at the half, only managed to take one shot in the final two quarters due to the repeated traveling calls. Afterwards, Walters said, “I’ve been doing this (coaching) a long time,” and
started to explain why Boone’s jump-stop move was permitted, but then showed restraint and said, “No, I’m not going to be that guy (who blames officiating for a loss).”

The Bears now await Sunday’s 32-team 4A state playoff bracket from the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA) to find out if their WSL league championship and runner-up district trophy is enough to host a four-team regional.


The Rifle girls had things going their way after two low-scoring quarters and led 18-16, thanks to 10 points from Samantha Hinkle, but Durango’s high-scoring Katrina Chandler got some second-half help from her teammates and Hinkle didn’t, as the Demons took the 3rd place game, 40-32.

The Bears led 18-12 five seconds before halftime when Chandler scored and was fouled. She missed the free throw with 3 seconds left, but got the rebound and drove in for the 4-point possession to trim the lead to 18-16 at the half.

At that point, Chandler had 13 while limiing Rifle’s leading scorer, Elly Walters to just four, first-quarter points at intermission. Walters went scoreless again in the third period, missing three attempts beyond the arc, and the Bears were outpointed 13-5, giving the Demons a 29-23 lead. Durango got 5 points off the bench from the 6-foot duo of Sienna Johnson and Danica Dudley, and Taylor Edwards scored 4 in the quarter, as did Chandler, whose 3-point play gave Durango its first lead of the game.

A steal and layup to open the final frame by the 5-5 Chandler pushed the advantage to eight. Hinkle scored inside and made a free throw and after a layup by the Demons’ Stephanie Basye, Jessie Pressler made just the second three pointer in 14 Rifle attempts to slice the margin to 33-29 with 3:05 left in the game. But Hinkle’s free throw would be all the Bears would get down the stretch and Chandler made 5 of 6 free throws to secure the third place trophy for Durango.

Walters, who fouled out with 16 seconds left, was held to 6 points on 2-of-8 shooting, missing all four 3-point attempts. Hinkle led the Bears with 16 and Chandler finished with 24 for Durango.

Both teams have qualified for the state tournament and will find out who and where they play on Sunday.


The third-place game between Glenwood and Steamboat Springs was as hot as the sulfer waters that gave both towns their names, with 14 times through the first three quarters before the Sailors pulled away with a 10-3 run to open the final period leading to a 52-41 victory.

Western Slope scoring leader Cam Horning, who has been limited to his three-lowest point totals of the season by Steamboat freshman Mac Rinikor, made a free throw for his tenth and final point with 2:10 left in the third quarter to tie the score at 33. But John Zalesky – the near hero of the Sailors’ frantic fourth-quarter comeback in the semi’s against Rifle – made a layup for a lead Steamboat would never relinquish.

Ethan Rinikor, taking the mantle from the Sailors’ injured top scorer, Jonathan Rinck, scored on a put-back and then a 3-pointer, his 4th in 5 tries for the game, to ignite Steamboat’s opening push in the final quarter.

Zalesky followed an Angel Garcia 3-pointer that cut the lead to 41-36 with a trey and then a driving score after Glenwood’s fifth turnover of the quarter to give the Sailors a decisive 46-36 margin with 3:07 to play.

Horning’s 10 points came primarily from 7-of-8 free throws as he made only one basket in 6 tries with both Rinikors taking turns guarding him. Zach Johnson and Garcia each scored 8 for the Demons, while Rinikor finished with 23 and Zalesky 12 for the Sailors.

Both teams, by winning their quarterfinal games, will be part of the 32-team 4A state playoffs, with seeding and brackets to be announced by CHSAA on Sunday.