Pirates sink Bears in defensive battle
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
RIFLE, Colorado – Kylie Tait has the ability to take over a basketball game.
On Thursday, the Olathe senior’s stats didn’t jump off the scorebook, but her hustle and willingness to take a foul helped the Pirates to a 36-33 win over host Rifle.
Tait’s offensive putback with 2 minutes, 16 seconds remaining delivered Olathe a 34-33 lead. Teammate Amanda Kinterknecht tacked on a mid-range jumper with 1:12 left, and the Pirates did the rest on defense to take sole possession of first place in the 3A Western Slope League.
Though she sat stretches of the second half after getting into foul trouble, the left-handed Tait finished with 13 points and five rebounds. Attacking the basket regularly, she hit at an 8-for-10 clip from the foul line.
“You can really see when she wants to take things over,” said Olathe coach Paul Althaus, whose team improved to 9-2 overall and to 5-0 in league play. “She gets those rebounds, attacks the basket. She’s just a great player.”
With first place on the line, Tait played with no shortage of motivation.
“It’s always fun playing Rifle,” she said. “I feel like we played well in the second half. Our shots finally started falling.”
Moments after forcing a turnover on defense, Rifle’s Jasmine Figueira had a crack at tying it for the Bears, but her attempt at a 3-pointer missed its mark as time expired. It appeared as if a Pirate altered the shot in some way.
“She either got hit on the arm or the ball got tipped,” Bears coach Stephanie Heald said. “Something altered that shot a little bit. But would it have gone in? Who knows?”
Defense ruled the night in Rifle, where the lead frequently swapped hands.
The first quarter ended in a 10-all tie. Olathe took an 18-16 lead into halftime and a 28-27 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We know they’re very traditional in their halfcourt man defense,” Heald said. “They play aggressive, get in the passing lanes. We know that from all the scouting reports we’ve gotten. There wasn’t anything we were surprised about.”
And Heald’s Bears countered with some stingy defense of their own.
“We knew we’d have to play our top defense,” the coach said. “We were back and forth in man and zone, and we did well shutting them down.”
Joey Kuheim led Rifle, now 9-2 overall and 4-1 in league play, with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Ashley Rickstrew finished with eight points and Taylor Walters scored six on a pair of 3-pointers.
Rifle lost one of its top offensive threats, Chante Church, to injury midway through the first quarter. The sophomore hurt her wrist slamming into the baseline wall trying to save a ball.
“A severe sprain is the only thing I know,” Heald said. “They took her to the hospital.”
Tawni Middleton scored 11 points for Olathe, striking for eight of those in the third. She also grabbed seven boards. Kinterknecht chipped in with six points.
“We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game,” Heald said. “They’re a great team. We were looking forward to this matchup. We played well the entire night, I thought.”
Self-destructing late, Rifle’s boys were taken down by Olathe, 60-45, on Thursday.
After going back and forth with the Pirates all night, the Bears surrendered seven straight points in the fourth quarter to drop in a 49-41 hole.
It only got worse from there. All told, Olathe scored 18 of the night’s final 22 points to win handily.
Richard Tafoya and Taylor Carlson scored 19 points apiece to pace the Pirates (7-4 overall, 3-2 in the 3A WSL). Ben Kaylor chipped in with 13 points.
Jacob Withee led Rifle (4-7, 3-2) with 16 points. Tanner Quick finished with 12.
Both Rifle teams return to the court tonight. The Bears will travel to Carbondale to face Roaring Fork, where the girls game will tip off at 5:30 p.m.
Olathe travels to Hotchkiss tonight.
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