KMTS Game of the Week: Rifle Edges Olathe Twice; Heartache Remains

OLATHE (1/22/11) – “Whether we win or lose doesn’t take away the heartache,” Rifle boys basketball coach Chris Lowther said after his team had just won its second straight one-point victory, resuming league play after the tragic death of junior Austin Booth due to a sudden attack of influenza. “Were still hurting,” Lowther said.

The Bears’ 67-66 overtime win over tenth-ranked Roaring Fork (8-4, 5-1 WSL) the night before in Rifle, followed by a 57-56 win over Olathe (6-6, 4-2), moved the Bears (6-5, 5-1) into first place in the northern division of the 3A Western Slope League. But all it took was the solitary words introducing the first of the visiting Bears’ non-starters, “Number five, Austin Booth,” to bring everyone in the Olathe gym to their feet in tribute, and to interject reality into the game.

But for three hours in Olathe Saturday afternoon, the games took center stage, and some heart-sore young student-athletes, their coaches, and fans, were able to assuage their heartaches with hard-fought, competitive high school basketball at its best.

The Rifle Lady Bears, described by assistant coach Brad Skinner, as uncharacteristically quiet during practice this week as they internalized the shocking loss of their classmate, also earned a one-point victory, 44-43 in a match of the leaders of both WSL divisions.

Four free throws by Cortney Cordova (and 8 points in the final quarter), and then suffocating defense for the final ten seconds, as Olathe desperately tried to get a final shot off, resulted in a steal by Cordova as the clock expired and an 11-0 record for the Bears.

“I love this game,” Rifle Lady Bear coach Stephanie Heald said, soon after her team played only its second game decided by less than 10 points this season. “We love the challenge,” Heald said, including the Bears’ 52-50 win over Glenwood Springs, January 11, the day of Austin Booth’s final game.

Part of the challenge for Rifle was overcoming early foul trouble as leading scorer Cordova and top rebounder Racheal Keithley each picked up two early fouls and sat down for six minutes of the first quarter. But Makayla Wilkins picked up her teammates, nailing two 3-pointers, including one to draw the Bears within a point with 10 seconds left, then a buzzer-beater on a pass from Jasmine Figueira to give Rifle a 13-12 lead at the end of the initial period. “People don’t realize what a great player Makayla is,” Heald remarked about Wilkins, who hit another three just before halftime, giving her 11 first-half points and the Bears a 25-24 lead.

In the second half Morgan Stansberry and Emily Brummitt helped Olathe take a 35-34 lead going into the fourth quarter. The teams exchanged leads 10 times, with the Pirates ahead, 43-42 on a Stansberry put-back with 51 seconds remaining in the game. Cordova made a pair of free throws with 33 seconds left, and Stansberry’s attempt at the lead with 10 seconds to go spun out. Wilkins came up with the loose ball, but the referee ruled “my pony tail was out of bounds,” she said, and the Pirates had one more chance.

But Olathe was unable to get a shot off, Cordova stepping into the passing lane for an interception just as the game clock sounded. Cordova finished with 17 points, Wilkins with 11 and 4 steals; Tresa Berner scored 6 points as did Keithley, who also pulled in 6 rebounds. Figueira contributed 4 assists. Stansberry led the Pirates with 15 points and 13 rebounds; Brummitt had 14 points.

The boys game was just as exciting with ten lead changes in the second half. Rifle led 31-26 at halftime before Richard Tafoya gave Olathe its first lead of the contest, 38-36 with 2:46 left in the period and the Pirates led 43-42 going into the final frame.

The teams exchanged the lead five times down the stretch and were tied at 53 with 1:55 left in the game. Rian Creech’s drive off an inbound pass by Taylor Webb put Rifle up by two, but Taylor Carlson matched it, and following a Bear turnover, Carston Byers made one of two free throws for a 56-55 advantage with 45 seconds remaining. Following a Rifle time out, Fernando Carreon made two free throws with 19 seconds left to put the Bears ahead. Olathe called time, but Jason Armendariz lost his footing and traveled with 8 seconds to go. Back at the line, Carreon missed the one-and-one chance with Byers getting the rebound. The Pirates used their final time out with 4.6 seconds left, but Carlson’s desperate three-point attempt caromed off the rim to end the game.

Creech led the Bears with 17 points and 15 rebounds; Taylor Boone had 10 points, and Carreon and Von Church each added 8. Tafoya led the Pirates with 17. The Bears dominated the taller Pirates under the boards, 32-16.

Rifle’s next game will be Friday, January 28, at home with Cedaredge, with both girls and boys games broadcast on KMTS starting at 6 p.m.