GYPSUM (1/15/16) — In a clash of Western Slope gunslingers that did not disappoint, the Rifle Lady Bears, led by sophomore Elly Walters, knocked off previously unbeaten Eagle Valley and league scoring leader Kylie Martin with a fourth-quarter comeback 57-49 in the Devils’ Inferno Gym Friday night. The Glenwood boys maintained their undefeated league standing with a defensively dominating 44-21 win.
RIFLE GIRLS 57, EAGLE VALLEY 49
With six first-half lead changes and four ties, the teams had battled to a 29-29 tie at intermission before the Lady Devils grabbed command with ten straight points to open the third quarter, only two coming from Martin, who had 16 in the initial two periods.
Walters had matched the 5-10 junior with 15 points of her own, nine coming via old-fashioned “and-one,” 3-point plays on drives to the hoop. None of her teammates had more than 3 points by halftime. Martin, guarded at different times by sophomore Peyton Caldwell and 6-0 junior Sam Hinkle, scored on jumpers, layups, free throws, and two-of-three from beyond the arc. Martin was assisted by senior Ashley Floyd with 7 first-half points, including a 3-pointer.
Martin, leading Walters in WSL scoring 21.6 to 20.8, converted a pass from Floyd on the Devils’ opening third-quarter possession
for a 31-29 lead. In the 10-0 flurry, Regan Bossow contributed 4 of her 6 points in the period, a steal by Martin led to Floyd’s layup, and Raquel Pereida put back her own miss as the Bears fell behind 39-29 just two-and-a-half minutes after halftime.
The Bears continued to turn the ball over against Eagle’s 1-2-2 zone press, adding five miscues to their 13 in the first half, but with 3:46 left in the quarter, Hinkle rebounded and followed a missed three-point attempt by Walters to break the Rifle drought. Bossow scored on a drive to reset the lead at ten, but the Bears answered with 7 straight points, four on press-breaking assists from Carly Rice to Hinkle and Reese Hoffmeister, and Walters’ driving bucket with 1:25 to go forced a Devil timeout and sliced the lead to 41-38.
Trailing by four going into the final period, 43-39, the Bears got the ball inside to Hinkle for the first time all game on their opening possession, Hoffmeister getting the assist. After Martin was flagged for an offensive foul, Caldwell tied the game with a pair of free throws. Martin was again tagged for an offensive foul and, following another missed 3-pointer by Walters, Rice grabbed the rebound, feeding Walters who made 1-of-2 foul shots, giving Rifle the lead for the first time since the second quarter, 46-45, with 4:46 remaining. The Bears would not relinquish it the rest of the way.
Martin missed her third consecutive attempt and Walters drove for a reverse layup, then fed Hinkle inside to cap the 7-0 run and put the Bears up 50-45, causing an Eagle timeout with 3:40 to play. Down the stretch, Rifle made 7-of-8 free throws while the Devils missed on three, 3-point tries, and the comeback was complete. The Devils (8-4 overall), who had three non-league losses, but were 5-0 in the WSL, are now just a half-game ahead of Rifle (8-2,4-1) with the Bears set to host Glenwood Springs next Tuesday.
Walters topped all scorers with 22, also leading both teams with 7 rebounds. Hinkle scored 12 of her 15 points in the second half, and Hoffmeister, who swished four free throws in the closing minutes, finished with 11 for the Bears. Jessie Pressler, whose only score was a first-quarter trey, helped Rifle win the battle underneath, 25-15, with 6 rebounds.
Martin finished one point shy of her league-leading 21 per game average, slowed considerably by Rice’s tight defense in the third quarter and by Caldwell and Hinkle in the fourth, when she was scoreless as Rifle outscored the Devils, 18-6.
RIFLE BOYS 44, EAGLE 21
There were no such dramatics in the boys’ game as the Bears easily improved to 5-0 atop the Western Slope League, 44-21. Rifle scored the first 11 points of the contest, taking a 16-3 quarter lead, keyed by two 3-pointers from Avery Lujan, one from Blaine Vance, and 7 penetrating points from Luis Carreon. In the second frame coach Roger Walters went to a deliberate offensive style which resulted in a sluggish 9-8 Devil advantage and a 21-12 halftime lead for the visitors.
The Bears turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter, shutting out Eagle Valley 12-0 to push the score to 36-12 as Jacob Boone, who was scoreless in the first half, led the way with five points. Eagle again outscored Rifle 9-8 in the final frame as Walters cleared his bench.
Lujan and Carreon shared scoring honors with 9 apiece, Boone added 7 and 5 boards, with Morgan Robinson and Eduardo Ruiz rounding out the balanced Rifle (9-1, 5-0 WSL) attack with six points each. Jesus Loera led Eagle Valley (3-9, 1-5) with six points before fouling out.
Walters shared some welcome news before the girls game, that long-time Rifle High School coach Jack Smith is back from St. Mary’s in Grand Junction and recovering at the Rifle Veterans home from a bout with pneumonia that has delayed his cancer treatment. Walters also revealed that the Garfield RE-2 school board has approved naming the high school gym in Smith’s honor and the ceremony for “Jack Smith Gymnasium” awaits the beloved Rifle icon’s gaining enough strength to attend the occasion.