PALISADE (2/18/16) – “Our young players want to send our seniors to state, and they did it!” Glenwood Springs boys basketball coach exulted after the Demons overcame a second-half comeback by Battle Mountain for a 43-38 overtime win in the first-round of the Western Slope League 4A district tournament.
The victory over fifth-seeded Battle Mountain (11-10) puts fourth-seeded Glenwood (12-9) in Friday’s 7:30 semi-final against number-one seeded Durango (13-7 in the 5A Southwestern League) at Central High School in Grand Junction. Win or lose, the Demons will play either for third place or in the championship game Saturday, and have also qualified for the 32-team 4A state playoffs.
The Huskies never led in regulation, but held a 38-37 lead with 1:05 to play in overtime when sophomore AJ Crowley stepped to the line to shoot two free throws. Glenwood had missed all four attempts from the stripe in the fourth quarter, while the Huskies made their last four, setting up Jack Skidmore’s drive to tie the game at 35 for the first time since early in the second period.
“Before overtime, I told the boys if we’d just made some free throws, the game would have been over,” Hitchcock said, and Crowley calmly knocked down two for a 39-38 Demon lead. With 27 seconds remaining sophomore Zach Johnson couldn’t duplicate Crowley’s success but six-foot freshman Luke Gair got past the 6-3 Skidmore on the second miss to secure the rebound.
“We’re small and play bigger teams all the time,” Hitchcock said, “but we showed a lot of heart and fight tonight.” Glenwood was outrebounded 35-25 by the Huskies whose 6-6, 6-5, 6-3 interior continually frustrated Demon attempts to drive the paint, but Gair’s rebound set up a pair of free throws by Cam Horning for a 41-38 lead with 24 seconds left.
Needing a 3-pointer to tie, Skidmore found himself trapped by Horning, who stole the ball and was fouled again with 13 seconds on the clock. The Demon senior, who had scored the game’s first 7 points and wound up with 25 for the night, nailed both free throws to ice the five-point win.
“It was a team effort out there,” Hitchcock said. “I’m very proud of the growth we’ve shown in close games. We’ve come a long way.”
Glenwood led by eleven, 25-14, at halftime but made just 4 of 17 shots and 1-of-8 free throws in the second half while being outscored 21-10 by Battle Mountain, setting up the four-minute overtime.
Gair scored 8 and Johnson 6 to support Horning, who also pulled down 14 rebounds. Skidmore led the Huskies with 12, and 6-6 Devin Huffman, who had scored 25 in Battle Mountain’s 10-point win at Glenwood, was limited to 7, but did have 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
RIFLE GIRLS 41, EAGLE VALLEY 19
Like the Battle Mountain boys, Eagle Valley’s Lady Devils also had to detour through Steamboat Springs to get to Grand Junction because of the Glenwood Canyon rock slide.
Rifle had defeated Eagle Valley twice this season, so the long bus ride may not have affected the outcome of Thursday’s first-round 4A district tournament, but the 41-19 win was made easier when the league’s leading scorer, Kylie Martin, picked up three fouls in the first quarter and was benched for the next 11 minutes.
The Bears didn’t really take advantage of Martin’s absence, having trouble with the Devils’ press and man-to-man defense. The teams were tied at 4 after one quarter, and without a pair of 3-pointers by Jessie Pressler in the second period, the Bears would have trailed at halftime instead of leading 13-9.
But Elly Walters, second to Martin in WSL scoring, but held to 3 free throws in the first half, heated up in the third quarter with 8 of the Bears’ 10 points. Martin returned and played the entire quarter but was scoreless as the Bear defense held Eagle to one basket and a free throw for a 23-12 lead.
Rifle went 7-for-7 at the free throw line in the final frame, led by 4 from Walters and two by Pressler, who also drained her third trey of the game in eight tries. Sam Hinkle scored 5 of her 10 points in helping the Bears to a final 18-7 fourth quarter thrashing to put fourth-seeded Rifle (17-4) in Friday’s 4:30 semi-final game with number one Montrose (15-5) at Central High School.
Walters led the Bears with 17 points, adding 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Pressler scored 11, and Hinkle’s 11 rebounds helped Rifle to a 29-14 domination on the boards. Martin finished with 5 points on 2-of-6 shooting. Regan Bossow led the Devil scoring with seven.
The win means Rifle is not only guaranteed two more games in the district tournament, but also secured a place in the 32-team 4A state playoffs.