RIFLE, Colorado - Taylor Walters could hardly contain herself. After all, she'd just been on one big emotional roller coaster.
"This win is," she said, pausing. "Sorry. I just feel so great right now."
And she had reason to. After committing a pair of potentially critical traveling violations in the final 30 seconds of Rifle High School's Class 4A Western Slope League game against rival Glenwood Springs, Walters hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds remaining to give the Bears a 46-44 victory.
"It's extremely hard for someone to come back from that," Rifle coach Rick Schmitz said. "It's even harder for her because she's extremely hard on herself. But I think she realized that the game wasn't over and there was about 10 seconds left, and she couldn't let her teammates down. You have to keep playing and keep fighting, because you never know."
Actually, there were 9.6 seconds remaining after a missed foul shot from Glenwood's Delaney Gaddis fell off the rim to Rifle, setting up Walters for the game-winning shot. Just two seconds prior to that, a traveling violation on Walters turned the ball over to the Demons (12-6 overall, 8-6 league play) with a 44-43 lead.
The final result, however, clinched at least second place in the league standings for the Bears (12-6, 10-3). Only one game remains before next week's district tournament at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
"I'm hoping this will give our kids a little confidence that we can play and compete at a high level next week," Schmitz said.
Chante Church finished with a game-high 27 points, including nine consecutive Rifle points in the third quarter. Glenwood's scoring was much more balanced - Kenzie Nelson-Buehler and Jordan DeCrow each had 13 points to go with a 12-point performance from sophomore Madi Spence.
Glenwood could have vaulted into third place in the district tournament with a win. Instead, the Demons are looking at no higher than a fourth seen in the 11-team district field, which will include Durango, Montezuma-Cortez and Montrose.
"It's tough, but a game like this can build character," Glenwood coach Jacky Gaddis said. "The good thing is that a new season begins on Monday, and we have an opportunity to learn a lot from this loss."
Spence's inside presence played a big role for Glenwood at the end of the first half, and the six unanswered points she scored staked the Demons to a 22-18 halftime cushion. Church, however, scored nine consecutive Rifle points as part of an 11-2 third-quarter run by the Bears, which Joey Kuheim capped with a pair of foul shots for a 33-30 Rifle lead after three.
Glenwood retook the lead - 34-33 - on two unanswered buckets from Nelson-Buehler to start the fourth. Back and fourth play followed until Kuheim's layup with 1:58 left gave Rifle a 43-42 lead, a lead which went back to Glenwood on Nelson-Buehler's foul shots.
Walters was called for traveling with Rifle in transition, and Gaddis missed the front end of a 1-and-1 foul-shot chance. Rifle worked the ball up court until it found its way to Walters, who banked in the 3 right in front of the student section.
Time expired, but two seconds were put back on the clock to recognize the time out Gaddis had called. All that left time for was a half-court heave by DeCrow, which banked hard off the backboard and to the floor.
"When they called that travel, my heart kind of dropped," Walters said. "I'm a golfer, and when I mess up there I can blame myself. In basketball, I'd let down a team of 12. I'm really, really glad it worked out."
Tanner Quick scored 21 points and Trent Brown chipped in 14, and Rifle's boys basketball team held off a late comeback bid from Glenwood Springs on its way to a 52-43 league victory.
Wyatt Robinson added seven for the Bears (10-8 overall, 7-6 league), who close out the regular season at home against Battle Mountain today and will try to end the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.
Grant Fegan paced the Demons (5-14, 4-10) with 13 points and Jared Gambrel added 12. Fegan's layup with 1:45 remaining in the game snapped a nearly nine-minute span without a field goal for Glenwood, and a steal and layup from Chris Thomas on the next Rifle possession brought the Demons within 45-39.
Rifle, however, put the game on foul shots hitting 6-of-7 attempts in the final 46.4 seconds to put the game away.
Thomas added 11 points for the Demons. Brown and Quick combined to hit 10-of-13 foul shots during the game, with Brown hitting 5-of-6 from the line.