GRAND JUNCTION (1/20/15) – The Rifle Lady Bears, seeded sixth in the Western Slope League district tournament and coming off a 44-30 overtime upset of No. 2 Glenwood Springs Thursday, weren’t able to ride that momentum into the semi-finals. Rifle missed its first 13 shots and lost to league champion Palisade, 36-25, in semi-final action at Colorado Mesa University Friday.
The opening deficit reached 11-0 before Whitney Vance got the Bears (13-9) on the scoreboard with 3:26 remaining in the first half.
A third-quarter run by Bears nearly made a game of it after a first half filled with frustration, but No. 2 Palisade (20-2) withstood the charge, to move into Saturday’s district championship game at CMU.
The Bulldogs extended their 13-2 halftime lead to 16 before Kenia Chavez swished a 3-pointer to start a 16-6 Rifle run with freshman Elly Walters and sophomore Samantha Hinkle combining for the other 13 points. The Bears closed the gap to 28-22 with 5:35 left in the game, before Palisade put up a stop sign with nine consecutive points.
Sophomore Christa Brown led the Bulldogs with 12 points, junior sister Ashlyn adding 11. Hinkle and Walters each tallied ten for the Bears after going scoreless in the first half.
Rifle, which qualified for the state tournament bracket to be announced on Sunday, will play for third place at 11 a.m. today at CMU against No. 1 seed Montrose (16-5), which lost 39-24 for the second straight time to No. 4 Durango (16-6). The Demons, who finished third in the 4A/5A Southwest League, will meet Palisade for the championship at 2 p.m.
After Friday’s first round 44-30 overtime win over No. 3 seed Glenwood Springs, Rifle coach Kristy Wallner said the win was so much more meaningful “because of the kind of program they (Glenwood) have. They‘ve been good for a lot of years and are very classy. We have a lot of respect for them. They win with class and lose with class. I feel bad for their seniors.” Of the Lady Bears’ 14-0 overtime domination, Wallner said, “We knew we had some mismatches when (6-0 Madi) Spence fouled out.” Six-one sophomore Samantha Hinkle, a 6-1 sophomore, scored nine points and has made a significant difference in the young Rifle team since becoming eligible in January.