Class 4A District Basketball: Rifle offense scorches Devils
GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado – Maybe the Rifle High School boys are just more of a noontime basketball team, because there was nothing flat about the Bears’ play in a convincing 63-36 midday win over Eagle Valley on Saturday to take third place in the Class 4A Western Slope District Tournament.
After low-scoring affairs in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, including a 38-33 loss to Durango on Friday night, fourth-seeded Rifle found its offensive rhythm almost immediately in the 11:30 a.m. Saturday start at Brownson Arena.
No. 3 Eagle Valley, on the other hand, looked to be half awake at times.
After playing even with the Bears through a 14-14 first quarter and keeping it to within four points at halftime, the Devils pulled to within two, 30-28, to start the third.
Despite lackluster play, Eagle Valley was still within seven at the end of the stanza thanks in part to a big 3-pointer by senior Samuel Lounsberry with 5 minutes to play in the frame.
A strong presence by Rifle’s 6-foot-6 post player Tanner Quick in the paint, though, and 3-point goals by Bears juniors Tanner Rust and Clinton Farr gave Rifle the edge.
From there on into the fourth, it was all Rifle.
Quick had a huge game down the stretch with several key rebounds, blocked shots and points underneath to pace the Bears on a 22-7 run that sent the Devils packing.
“Yesterday and Thursday [a 29-28 win over Steamboat] we came out really flat,” Quick said. “Coach [Roger Walters] stressed that at halftime, and we came out and stepped it up, played hard and started off scoring right away.”
The Bears (13-9), who have won 10 of their past 11 games, now await word today whether they will play their first-round 4A regional playoff game at home or on the road on Wednesday.
“This one was worth waiting for,” Walters said of the third-place district win. “That looked like it’s supposed to look in basketball.”
Quick, who had a game-high 20 points Saturday, reflected on the big turnaround for the Rifle team following a 3-8 start to the season in December and January before the wins started coming.
“We worked pretty hard in practice to get where we are today,” Quick said. “Coach kept telling us that as long as we’re playing our best ball at the end of the season, we’ll be all right.”
Senior Jake Statler chipped in 10 points, including two 3-pointers for Rifle. Lounsberry was the Devils’ leading scorer with 10.
Eagle Valley dropped to 15-8 with the loss and will also await word on its fate in the regional playoffs, which will likely have the Devils on the road Wednesday.
The Glenwood Springs boys earned the seventh and final Western Slope berth in the regional playoffs with a 62-44 win in Saturday’s consolation round over Battle Mountain.
Playing at Grand Junction Central High School, the Demons controlled the tempo over the Huskies and had balanced scoring to bounce back from a tough 53-47 loss to Steamboat Springs on Friday night.
“The boys have been playing really hard the last five games. And despite some tough losses, we dug deep and won this one when we needed to,” Demons coach Cory Hitchcock said. “It was good to see them come out with that kind of energy, and they did a great job of executing the game plan.”
Glenwood (7-16) will be on the road for a regional playoff game on Wednesday, at the home of a higher seed to be determined later today.
Senior Collin Porterfield, back in action for only his third game following a season-long hand injury, paced the Demons with 14 points.
“It’s great to be back with the team, and I just want to thank all these guys for helping me stay in shape and do as much as I could in practice,” Porterfield said. “This team has come so far over the season, and it’s just a joy to be able to be back out there with them.”
With the loss, Battle Mountain ended its season at 9-14.
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