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Caught in a Bear trap

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent
ALL |

RIFLE, Colorado – As the basketball left Sarah Emter’s hands, the fans packing Rifle High School gymnasium held their collective breath.

If Emter’s shot went in, that meant overtime. If it didn’t, they could celebrate.

The Lewis-Palmer senior’s heave, launched from just beyond the three-point arc, bounced off the iron and dropped into the hands of Rifle’s Cortney Cordova, who dribbled out the clock to ice a 45-42 win over the Rangers in the second round of the 4A girls basketball state playoffs on Friday.



Cordova, grinning ear to ear, was met by Rifle’s entire student section, which poured out of the stands in celebration.

“All I could think was, ‘Don’t go in and get the rebound,'” Bears coach Stephanie Heald said. “Thankfully, that’s what happened.”



Next up for Heald’s squad is a Sweet 16 date with Cheyenne Mountain tonight at 7 p.m.

It required quite the effort for the Bears to advance past the round of 32.

Rifle entered the night with a 15-game winning streak. The closest margin of victory during that stretch: 12 points.

Nothing would come easily against Lewis-Palmer.

“That was a tough game,” Cordova, a junior, said. “We haven’t had a game like that in a while. We weren’t used to it, but we found out we can do it again.”

The Bears had their troubles with Lewis-Palmer’s size. With five girls on the roster measuring in at 5-foot-10 or taller, the Rangers won the night’s rebounding battle, 42-28, and took a 21-17 lead into halftime.

Then came a few defensive adjustments. Mixing a pesky half-court trap with a swarming press, Rifle outscored Lewis-Palmer by a 17-6 margin in the third quarter.

A bucket by Ciara Euler and two layups by Makayla Wilkins accounted for a 6-0 Bears’ run to close out the frame with Rifle ahead, 34-27. Wilkins’ second layup resulted from a mid-court steal.

Also big in that third quarter were a trio of 3-pointers from Cordova, two of which were set up by long passes from Euler.

“Oh my gosh, they were huge,” Heald said. “We went into the half and I said, ‘Girl, you’ve got to shoot more. You’re not shooting as much as I want you to.’ She came out and did exactly what I wanted her to do.”

Cordova and Euler finished with 17 points apiece for the Bears, who improved to 19-4. Wilkins scored nine. Cordova also had eight steals. Euler tallied five takeaways.

“Our defense was big,” Heald said. “We didn’t do our half-court trap in the first half. I was just kind of waiting on it, to see if we could do it in the second half. That’s what really worked for us.”

“When we put in our half-court trap, that always helps us,” Wilkins said. “It helps us get our energy up.”

Liz Campbell and Morgan Griffin scored 10 points apiece to pace Lewis-Palmer, which finished its season with a 10-15 record. Kai Brown contributed seven points and 14 rebounds. Campbell matched Brown’s rebound total.

“Good luck to Rifle,” Rangers coach Rodney Yates said. “It’s going to be a tough one [Saturday] night against Cheyenne Mountain. … Rifle’s a good team. They’re scrappy. They earned it.”

Cheyenne Mountain enters tonight’s Sweet 16 matchup with a 19-5 record. The Indians hold the No. 3 seed in the Lou Piel Region. Rifle is the No. 2 seed.

Tonight’s winner moves on to next Saturday’s Great Eight at Colorado School of Mines.

jcaspersen@postindependent.com


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