KEENESBURG, CO (2/26/20) — Rifle sophomore Jamie Caron is the third-leading scorer in the Western Slope League, so when she scored eight points in the final 2:20 of the number 43-seed Lady Bears’ 41-40 upset victory at number 22 Weld Central in the first round of the 4A basketball playoffs, it was not unexpected.
The surprise, and just as pivotal to the Bears advancing to play number 11 Sierra Friday, was little-used sophomore Kimber Lang coming off the bench midway through a three-point game in the fourth quarter to score five points in 23 seconds, giving Rifle a 30-24 lead.
Weld Central (17-7)’s Kaydee Sims, the state’s second-leading scorer, did all she could to give the Rebels a chance to avoid the upset, scoring 14 of her 28 points in the frantic fourth quarter.
After Lang’s heroics gave Rifle, which led the entire game, but for a brief 2-2, first-quarter tie, a six point edge, the Bears broke the Rebel press with Caron finding Jahira Luna for a layup and 32-24 edge with 3:30 remaining.
Sims followed with six points in an 8-1 Rebel run that sliced the lead to one, 33-32 with 2:33 left. Following an exchange of turnovers, Caron found herself alone beyond the arc on the right wing. She hesitated for a second, and when no defender came at her. let fly with just the second successful Rifle 3-pointer of the game for a 4-point advantage. Delaney Phillips, who sank the other trey in a 10-8 first quarter for the Bears, grabbed a steal which led to a one-and-one chance for Caron. She made both to boost the lead to 38-32 with 1:46 to go.
Weld Central missed at its end, but Sims’ steal and layup cut the lead to four. Caron was fouled and again made both ends of a one-and-one with 46 seconds left for a 40-34 lead. Taylor Weber hit a jumper for the Rebels, but Caron added another free throw with 35 seconds left for a five point lead that was just enough to outlast baskets by Sims and Weber in the game’s last ten seconds.
Caron, despite being limited to six shots from the floor, led the Bears with 16 points, making 7-of-9 free throws. Mackenzie Elizardo scored six points, but just as importantly grabbed 10 rebounds to help Rifle to a slim 28-25 board advantage. April Quinones led a tenacious Rifle defense with five steals that was instrumental in the Bears getting out to an early 10-4 advantage keyed by eight Rebel turnovers.
WELD CENTRAL 53, RIFLE BOYS 25
The Rifle boys (10-14) held a 1-0 lead following a Trey Lujan free throw in the opening minute of their eventual 53-25 first-round loss to Weld Central (15-9), which disappeared as they went scoreless for the next four minutes, as 6-9 Daniel Begler blocked a 3-pointer and what appeared to be a press-breaking 2-on-1 layup. The Rebels’ three leading scorers, Noah Sena, Bryce Andrews, and Kevin Shaffer gave the home team a 6-1 lead.
Shaffer scored ten points, including two 3-pointers, as a 9-2 closing run by the Rebels gave them a 15-6 quarter advantage. An 11-0 second quarter surge keyed by another Shaffer trey and eight points from Andrews provided a 34-10 halftime edge, effectively ending any real possibility of an upset by the 34th ranked Bears.
Weld Central, seeded 31st, took its foot off the gas in the second half, managing just 19 points, but Rifle was unable to take advantage, tallying just 15. For the game, the Bears made only 11-of-40 shots, missing all but one of their 13, 3-point tries.
Sena, despite making only 1-of-10, 3-point attempts, led all scorers with 17 points. Shaffer had 15 and Andrews 12 for the Rebels, who will travel to second-ranked Glenwood Springs (20-3) Saturday for a second-round game.
Lujan, who led the WSL in scoring with 17.9 points per game, wrapped up his four-year varsity career by leading the Bears with 11 points. Carter Pressler, who added six second-half points, and Garrett Robinson are the other two seniors for Riflle.