Cheyenne Mountain ends Rifle’s run |

Cheyenne Mountain ends Rifle’s run

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo by Tyler Eichhorst

RIFLE, Colorado – Even in the wake of a disappointing defeat, the thought brought a smile to Stephanie Heald’s face.

The Rifle girls basketball coach is losing just two seniors from a team that won 19 games, claimed a 4A Western Slope League title and advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the 4A girls basketball state playoffs.

“How can you not be excited?” she said with a laugh. “It’s an amazing team.”

A team that’ll be back with a chip on its shoulder after a 64-54 loss to Cheyenne Mountain in the third round of the playoffs on Saturday.

A combined 39 points from sophomore tandem Janae Vander Ploeg and Amanda Weber proved too much for the Bears to overcome.

Vander Ploeg finished with a team-high 25 points, sinking 17 of 19 free throws along the way. She also pulled down 16 rebounds.

“We even said, ‘We can’t foul her. We can’t put her on the line,'” Heald said of Vander Ploeg. “Sometimes it’s just, ‘What are you going to do?’ She did it for them. She was pretty good.”

Weber nailed a trio of 3-pointers and finished with 14 points for Cheyenne Mountain, which improved to 20-5 and will face Longmont in next weekend’s Great Eight.

Ciara Euler poured in 20 points to lead Rifle, which wrapped its season with a 19-5 record. Makayla Wilkins finished with 10 points and Haydn Holgate and Cortney Cordova scored eight apiece.

Cordova, the Bears’ leading scorer, fouled out with 1 minute, 40 seconds left. She had to sit long stretches of the second half because of foul trouble.

Cheyenne Mountain got off to a quick start, taking a 19-10 lead after a quarter and extended that advantage to 35-19 by halftime.

The Indians kept the lead in double digits for the entire third quarter before Rifle made a late charge in a frenetic fourth quarter that saw a combined 44 points go up on the board.

An 8-0 run by the Bears in the middle stages of the fourth cut the count to 57-47.

Rifle pulled to within six (59-53) with 28.8 seconds remaining before Cheyenne Mountain iced the win at the free-throw line. Vander Ploeg nailed 11 of her 12 freebie tries in the final quarter.

“I felt like we left it on the court,” Rifle senior Nichole Karr said. “We really did put all of our effort and all of our heart onto that court tonight. Those guys were a better team, but we stuck with them.”

“They did a great job,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Janie Mueller said of the Bears. “They’re a well-coached team, a very well-coached team.”

Rifle loses just Karr and Crystal Clemons to graduation and will drop down to the 3A level next year. A bright future likely awaits the Bears.

“They’re pretty committed,” Heald said. “I’m sure they’re going to commit this summer to taking the next step. It should be a fun summer and fun next year.”

Cheyenne Mountain appears to have a bright future too, one it’ll resume next weekend against Longmont.

“This is the farthest our team has got in a really long time,” Vander Ploeg said. “We’re really excited. If we play hard and play as a team, we have a chance to go as far as we want.”

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