KMTS State B-ball: One-point Heartbreak Ends Rifle Season; Rams Also Fall in Consolation Round

FORT COLLINS (3/11/11) – Lose by one or by twenty, there are no “good” losses, as the Roaring Fork boys and Rifle girls reaffirmed Friday in different fashion at the 3A state basketball tournament at CSU.

Both teams experienced the heartbreak of having a seemingly safe lead fade away and also the frustration of not being able to find the games that got them to the Great 8. Thursday morning the Rams were dropped into the consolation bracket after an 11-point lead disintegrated in the second half to Jefferson Academy. Later that evening, the Lady Bears never seemed to recover from the day’s long bus ride in losing by 16 to Eaton. The teams changed roles but were still eliminated from the consolation semifinals Friday: the Rams falling 57-37 to Brush, and Rifle seeing a seven-point lead disappear in the final 3:41 of the fourth quarter, losing 49-48 to Estes Park when a buzzer-beating layup missed.

Cortney Cordova, who led Rifle with 20-points per game, rediscovered her scoring mojo in the first quarter against the 6th-seeded Bobcats. Held to just two points in the Bears’ first loss of the season, Cordova served notice early that her shooting eye returned by nailing two 3 pointers in the first four minutes against Estes Park, and scoring all 11 of the Bears’ first-quarter points. However the Bobcats ran off the final six of the period to lead 15-11 after one.

Rifle regained the lead with Makayla Wilkins rifling in a pair of treys and a tremendous hustle play by Ashley Rickstrew leading to Jasmine Figueira’s basket at the buzzer for a 26-23 halftime lead.

Racheal Keithley extended the margin to five points early in the third, but Kimmy Hansen keyed a 5-0 Estes run to tie the score at 29, then fed Kyra Stark for a layup and the lead, adding a driving basket and free throw as the Bobcats led 36-33 going into the final quarter.

The teams exchanged the lead three times in the first three minutes, the last coming on Figueira’s drive for a 41-40 lead. A steal and layup by Wilkins, two free throws by Keithley and a jumper by Wilkins put Rifle in front, 47-40 with 3:41 to play and a likely chance at Saturday’s consolation championship appeared imminent.

But the Bears suddenly couldn’t take care of the ball, four consecutive turnovers, including a pair of steals by Hansen, contributing to a 7-0 run by Estes in the next 105 seconds, capped by Stark’s 3-pointer, tying the score at 47 with 2:04 remaining.

Two of Rifle’s steadiest senior leaders then missed point-blank shots, as first, Cordova couldn’t convert a steal with 1:04 to go before Torrey Slininger made her only basket of the game on a put-back with 20 seconds to play, giving Estes a 49-47 lead. Cordova was fouled with 10 seconds left, making the first, but missing the tying free throw, however the ball was tipped out of bounds to Rifle.

After a time out, Cordova inbounded to Figueira, who got the ball inside to Keithley, but trying to beat the buzzer, the rushed shot was off, and Estes Park claimed the rebound for the one-point win.

For Rifle’s five seniors, starters Wilkins, Cordova, Haydn Holgate, Tresa Berner, and Keithley, and coach Stephanie Heald, it was a heartbreaking end to a marvelous 43-7 two-year run. Cordova led the scoring with 14 points, adding 6 assists and 5 steals; Wilkins scored 13, hitting 3-of-5 three-pointers, and Keithley added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

For Roaring Fork, Friday’s game was a let down after the narrow loss to Jefferson Academy. Brush broke an early 2-2 tie with a 7-0 run before a basket by Trent Reeds and Jake Strack Loertscher’s two free throws trimmed the deficit to 9-6 with 2:50 left in the period. Then the Beetdiggers fired in a trio of 3-pointers, including one at the buzzer for an 18-8 first-quarter lead.

Eight consecutive points by CJ Kukas to open the second frame effectively finished the Rams’ return to the Great 8, after a 4-year absence, as they were unable to get any closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Senior leaders Dalton Handy and Strack Loertscher, as they did so well in the Rams marvelous final stretch of eight victories to get to CSU, led the Ram scoring, combining for 20 points, with Big Jake pulling down a dozen rebounds. Trae Moxley added 6 points and 6 rebounds. Kolby Wahlert, whose six 3-pointers kept the Rams from cutting into the Diggers’ comfortable lead throughout the game, led all scorers with 22 points. The 6-4 Kukas scored 20, had 9 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 blocked shots.