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Rifle tops Coal Ridge in hoops

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen Post Independent
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RIFLE, Colorado – With dueling student sections trading roaring rounds of applause with every basket, Tuesday’s boys basketball game between Rifle and Coal Ridge had all the elements of a rivalry in the making.

The game between fellow Garfield School District Re-2 schools featured a little of everything: the wild fans, a fierce comeback, extreme hustle from both sides and a down-to-the-wire finish.

Making clutch shots down the stretch, Rifle came out on top, scoring an 85-80 win over the visiting Titans in the second-ever meeting between the neighboring schools.



“That was a fun basketball game,” Coal Ridge head coach Paul Harvey said. “It was a good atmosphere. We got better from that.”

Tyler Rust scored 26 points and Rian Creech poured in 21 as Rifle built a big third-quarter lead and held off a late Titan charge.



Coal Ridge, which trailed by as many as 15 points in the third quarter, got it as close as 70-69 late in the fourth. Down the stretch, though, Rust and company came through when it mattered most.

“Tyler Rust hit some pretty big shots,” said Harvey, a Rifle High School alum. “We had ’em on the ropes. We just couldn’t get that last shot, the one to get us over the hump.”

While he wished his team had preserved its lead a bit better, Bears head coach Chris Lowther liked the hustle he saw out of his scrappy squad.

“I can’t complain about the effort,” the veteran coach said. “It was a great effort on our part. We were doing all we could to try to jump on loose balls.”

Playing in front of a revved-up Rifle crowd might have sparked the adrenaline a bit.

“It’s a lot more fun when the crowd’s like that,” said Rust, whose Bears improved to 7-5. “It definitely helped. It’s going to be a good rivalry. It’s already started.”

Rifle and Coal Ridge now have one win apiece in the budding rivalry. The Titans won last year’s meeting, 71-60.

Andy Smedra scored 25 points to lead Coal Ridge, now 3-7 overall. Rafael Fabela had 13, Tyler Guettler 11 and Darik Brown 10.

Ryan Davis had 14 points and Dustin Ross 10 for Rifle, which travels to Steamboat Springs on Friday.

Coal Ridge will be at Aspen the same night.

Coal Ridge isn’t the first team to run up against Rifle’s pesky press. And they won’t be the last.

With its quick-handed defenders disrupting passing lanes and wreaking havoc all around, Rifle’s girls basketball team coasted to a 48-27 win over the Titans on Tuesday.

“It’s always our defense,” Bears head coach Stephanie Heald said. “What we have to live on is our defense. When you have quick girls up front, they can do it. We have to keep going with it.”

Cortney Cordova led Rifle, which opened the game by scoring 24 of the night’s first 26 points, with 23 points. Many of those came courtesy of steals and fastbreak layups.

Makayla Wilkins added 11 points for the Bears, who improved to 8-4 overall.

“We played as a team,” Cordova said. “We passed good and just got to it.”

Chasity Gonzales scored nine points to lead Coal Ridge (4-6). Brianna Rhodes chipped in with eight.

Next up for the Titans is a Friday trip to Aspen. Rifle will be at Steamboat Springs, where the top spot in the 4A Western Slope League will be up for grabs. Both teams are 4-0 in league play.

“From what I hear, they’re our competition right now,” Heald said. “I told them to be ready to come to practice, to be ready to play.”

jcaspersen@postindependent.com


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