Bears triple up Longhorns, 66-22
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado – With a workman-like effort, the Rifle Bears girls basketball team took care of business in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs and are now just one win away from the Elite 8.
With their dominating 66-22 victory over the Basalt Longhorns, the Bears showed the tremendous skill and athleticism that have them undefeated (23-0) and ranked No. 2 in the state.
The overmatched Longhorns hustled and fought with Rifle throughout, but couldn’t get many shots to fall and were no match for the Bears’ overall basketball skill and tenacious defense.
Behind seniors Cortney Cordova and Racheal Keithley, Rifle methodically pummeled Basalt with an inside-outside game, and a suffocating full-court press to take a 38-8 lead at the half.
Cordova, the Bears’ offensive dynamo, finished with 23 points, including 13 in the dominating first half. Keithley finished with 13 points and Ashley Rickstrew added 11.
It was the type of game Rifle coach Stephanie Heald was hoping for.
“We wanted to come out and take control of the game early and that’s what we did,” she said. “We were really focused tonight.”
Every time the Longhorns had the ball, Rifle defenders swarmed like ants to a discarded popsicle stick. The demoralizing full-court press helped the Bears force 17 turnovers in the first half.
Offensively, the Bears were patient and unflinching in their dismantling of the Longhorns.
Keithley said patience is the key to Rifle’s game.
“That’s a big part of our team. We put so much pressure on the other team on defense that we know we need to stay really focused [on the offensive end of the floor],” the senior said.
Cordova nailed three 3-pointers in the game and was constantly looking for the open player. On back-to-back plays in the first quarter, the smooth dribbling senior fed Keithley for inside buckets.
After a putback basket by Jasmine Figueira, Cordova hit a slashing Rickstrew for another bucket, and that was followed by a steal and layup by Makayla Wilkins. Two free throws by Keithley finished the 11-2 run to push the Bears’ lead to 19-4 at the end of the first quarter.
The unselfish Bears moved the ball like a hot potato, always looking for a teammate and a better shot.
Keithley had a steal and hit one free throw after she was fouled, then made a gorgeous bounce pass to Tresa Berner in the paint for an easy layup.
The next time down the floor, it was Keithley who took a pass from Cordova, and she banked home a hook shot to put the Bears up 28-4.
Basalt came out from halftime with a spirited effort, forcing four straight Rifle turnovers and getting a pair of buckets from senior Stephanie Alvarado, who led the Longhorns with six points.
After Cordova hit a pair of 3-pointers, order was restored for the Bears. By the fourth quarter, Rifle had pulled its starters.
The Bears will host 15th-seeded Manitou Springs (17-6) at 1 p.m. today after the Colorado Springs-area school defeated 18th-seeded Denver School of Science and Technology, 51-44, to earn a shot at the Bears. The winner of today’s game will earn a trip to the Class 3A Great 8 in Fort Collins starting Thursday.
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