Bears give ferocious effort in honor of No. 5 |

Bears give ferocious effort in honor of No. 5

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post IndependentRifle High School basketball players and fans paid tribute to the memory of Austin Booth, No. 5, at Friday night's game in Rifle. Booth died earlier this week. Before the game, players from Roaring Fork presented the Bears with a check for $500 to benefit the Booth family.

RIFLE, Colorado – Austin Booth’s name still graced the roster.

When his jersey number came up in the pre-game player introductions, his name and number were announced and met with a roaring ovation.

Yellow shirts bearing Booth’s No. 5 were ubiquitous.

Though he’s no longer here, the young man who’s remembered for being as affable and gregarious as they come still found a way to make his presence felt at Rifle High School.

Friday marked the first time the school’s basketball teams took the court since Booth, a junior on the team, died after a bout with the flu. His Monday passing left behind a devastated school and community.

“He was so outgoing,” Rifle senior Rian Creech said. “There was nothing negative about that kid. There was never a down moment. He was fun to be around. He’s just one of those people you loved to be around, you know?”

Booth, who moved to Rifle from Texas last year, was also a stellar athlete. He played football, basketball and planned to play baseball in the spring.

And he took sports seriously.

“He was a hustler,” Creech said with a big smile. “That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be him.”

Playing with the competitive spirit so often flashed by their fallen teammate, Creech and his Rifle teammates honored Booth the only way they knew how on Friday – with effort.

“We haven’t dedicated wins or losses to him, but we are dedicating our effort on the court and how we’d leave everything on the court to him,” senior Von Church shared.

That effort produced an emotional triumph on the court for the Bears, who posted a 67-66 overtime win over Roaring Fork in an important 3A Western Slope League game.

As Church communicated, the effort displayed in that victory meant far more than the actual victory.

“Everyone’s effort was there,” he said. “That’s what he’d like to see.”

Church’s 24 points were a big part of the Bears’ Friday win. Taylor Boone chipped in 19 points and nine rebounds and Creech scored 16 points and grabbed eight boards.

But statistics mattered little on a night that was all about Booth.

A spaghetti dinner and silent auction were held concurrent with the night’s boys and girls basketball games. The proceeds will be donated to the Booth family.

Roaring Fork also made a generous gesture, writing a $500 check to help out the Booths. The Rams also wore armbands bearing the No. 5.

“That’s real special,” Boone said. “That was a real classy thing Roaring Fork did. No one made them wear the armbands or donate that check. They’re a real classy team.”

Said Roaring Fork coach Larry Williams: “Our sympathy goes out to his family and his team and the community. It’s a hard thing that nobody should have to go through.”

But the Bears do have to go through it, and they plan on honoring Booth every time they set foot on the court.

“Every night,” Creech said. “Every practice. … We just have to keep playing hard, play for him. It’s all for him.”

And it will never cease to be about Booth.

“We’ll have him as a reserve for every game the rest of the year and, as long as I’m the coach here, no one will wear No. 5,” Rifle coach Chris Lowther said. “It’s not going to be worn again. He’ll always be part of this team.”

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