Defense steps up big for Rifle girls |

Defense steps up big for Rifle girls

MONTROSE, Colorado – Rifle High School’s ability to handle pressure ended up being the difference in a pressure-filled, second-round playoff victory over the Palmer Ridge girls on Friday night.

Thanks to the Bears’ ability to handle Palmer Ridge’s game-long, full-court press, Rifle prevailed 31-25 in the second round of the Class 4A regional playoffs and moved into the state tournament’s Sweet 16.

“We’re feeling really good right now,” Rifle assistant coach Chris Lowther said.

And the Bears (17-5) have plenty of reason to be feeling good. With the win, Rifle advanced to play Montrose, a No. 2 seed in the tournament, for a berth in next week’s state quarterfinals. Game time is slated for 1 p.m.

Chante Church scored a game-high 14 points and Taylor Walters added six on a pair of 3-pointers for Rifle. No Palmer Ridge players reached double figures in scoring, although Rifle’s Kimmie Rausin held Palmer Ridge’s leading scorer, Allie Meyer, to just three points.

Palmer Ridge, which came into the tournament as one of four No. 4 seeds in the tournament, was paced by a nine-point effort from Madison Thomas and and eight-point effort from Michelle Decoud.

Turns out it was the Bears’ overall effort on defense that helped them overcome an early 10-4 deficit after one quarter.

And that defense created Rifle’s offense, as the Bears tied the score at 15-15 by halftime and took a five-point, 27-22 lead headed into the final stanza.

That’s when the Bears’ offense turned into its best defense, as Rifle used a stall tactic during most of its fourth-quarter possessions to milk time off the clock, come away with the victory and advance to the tournament’s round of 16.

“That [stall tactic] was especially good for us during the last 2 1/2 minutes of the game,” Lowther said. “It became really effective.

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