RIFLE(1/28/16) – The contender came into town for a rematch, but the result, though not a knockout, was the same: Rifle’s boys basketball team struggled with a determined Palisade team but remained undefeated in Western Slope League play, emerging with a 48-43 win in newly named Jack Smith Gymnasium Thursday.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bears, the team that handed them their only league loss applied a defensive vice grip on leading scorer Elly Walters and her teammates, 37-22, to drop Rifle two games behind unbeaten Palisade.
RIFLE BOYS 48, PALISADE 43
Asked before the game whether his team was ready to “D-it-up” against Palisade, coach Roger Walters remarked, “We’d better be.” In the early going, the Bears did just that, taking a 12-5 first-quarter lead while holding the Bulldogs to a single basket in eight tries and forcing six turnovers. With Jacob Boone scoring on Rifle’s first possession of the second period, then dishing to Eduardo Ruiz for a 3-pointer, the Bears extended their lead to 12 before Palisade began a comeback.
The damage didn’t come from the Bulldogs two leading scorers, seniors Ian Schierland and John Goff, who combined for 26 of Palisade’s 46 in a nine-point December loss to the Bears. Those two managed to produce just six points while collecting nine fouls for the game.
Instead, juniors P.D. Riddle, Max Noland, and Daniel Mclean keyed a 14-5 surge in the last six minutes of the quarter, fueled by Riddle’s offensive rebounds and three layups by Noland that left Rifle clinging to a 22-19 halftime lead. That margin would have been smaller had not Morgan Robinson found Blaine Vance alone behind the 3-point arc with two minutes to go. Just the fourth trey of the season for the Bear junior, it padded the lead to nine before six straight points from Mclean and Noland closed the gap.
Rifle’s defense held Palisade without a basket, limiting the Dogs to three free throws, for the first five minutes of the third quarter as a 3-pointer and follow-shot by Robinson keyed an 8-1 run to a 31-22 lead.
But junior Tanner Hall broke the spell with an offensive rebound and put back, then passed inside to Riffle to slice the lead to five with two minutes left.
Boone answered with back-to-back buckets and Rifle held a 35-28 lead going into the final frame. Once again, Palisade crashed the offensive boards, this time with Noland following a missed free throw, then draining the Bulldogs’ only 3-pointer in 12 attempts.
Up by just three with under three minutes to go, Luis Carreon began a sequence that would essentially seal the Bears’ victory. Yo-yoing the ball just over the half-court line to draw his defender out, Carreon then streaked to the basket, swerved by a firmly-planted Hunter Mathews in the key, changed hands and spun in an under-hand layup with the flick of his left wrist. The referee flagged an outraged Mathews for the “and-one,” then hit the 6-3 senior with a technical foul when he protested too vigorously.
Making the first of the technical shots gave Carreon six straight points and the Bears a 44-37 lead with 2:44 remaining in the game. The Bulldogs battled back again with an offensive rebound from Mclean leading to a pair of free throws and Noland scoring after Riddle’s steal to slice the margin to 46-43 with a minute left.
The Bulldog press forced a turnover, but just before Noland nailed what would have been the tying 3-pointer, Palisade coach Jeremiah Baskin called a time-out, negating the basket. Tight defense by Vance following the in-bounds from Noland forced Mclean to heave up a desperate 3-pointer that was rebounded by Avery Lujan, who swished a pair of free throws to ice the game.
Carreon led the Bears with 14 points and four assists. Boone added 11 points and 6 rebounds; Lujan scored 8 with 5 boards, and Robinson had 6 points, 4 boards, and 4 assists. Noland’s 15 led the Bulldogs who outrebounded Rifle 30-22, including scoring on 8 of 12 offensive boards. Mclean finished with 7 and Riddle added six along with 7 rebounds.
Rifle (14-1, 9-0 WSL) made 9-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter, seven by Lujan and Carreon, to stay on top of the Western Slope. Palisade (5-9, 5-3) drops behind Glenwood Springs (8-6, 6-2) into third place.
PALISADE 37, RIFLE GIRLS 22
Hoping to avenge a ten-point loss in December at Palisade, the Lady Bears got off to a good start with back-to-back 3-pointers by Jessie Pressler giving them an 8-7 first-quarter lead. But Palisade’s box-and-one zone defense, with the one being 5-9 senior Ashlyn Brown on Elly Walters, clamped down for a devastating 9-0 second quarter and 16-8 halftime lead for the Bulldogs.
Walters, averaging 20 points a game, was scoreless through the second and third quarters, managing just three shots, and with 5-9 senior Aspen Guray having her way inside for 11 points, Palisade built a 25-11 lead going into the final period.
Packing in the key, the Bulldogs collapsed on Sam Hinkle and Emily Neuroth, returning after a year-long comeback from a knee injury, holding the Rifle inside game to just 4 points. Hinkle had scored 13 in the Bears only other league loss, 53-43, to Palisade.
Walters finally got free for a pair of deep treys late in the fourth quarter, but by then the Bulldog lead was 18, 31-13, and served only to give the Bear sophomore 8 points for the game on 3-of-12 shots. Jessie Pressler didn’t score again after the initial quarter, finishing with 6 points. Reese Hoffmeister had the only other basket for the Bears who made just 6-of-27.
Guray led all scorers with 13, with Christa Brown adding 12. Ashlyn Brown, who had 21 in the December game, scored only five, but her suffocating defense on Walters was the decisive factor in the Bulldogs improving to 8-0 in league play (12-2 overall). Rifle is now 7-2 in league, 11-4 overall.