Rifle tops Glenwood Springs in thriller
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado – Although the league element has been removed from the equation, the luster of the Glenwood Springs-Rifle basketball rivalry is still very much present.
Tuesday’s girls game between the neighboring schools proved as much.
In front of a packed and noisy gymnasium at Rifle High School, the Demons and Bears treated the masses to quite the show.
With Cortney Cordova hitting 3 of 4 free throws in the final 9.7 seconds and intercepting a pass after her only miss of the four freebies, Class 3A Rifle held on for a 52-50 win over 4A Glenwood Springs.
“This is a big game,” said coach Stephanie Heald, whose Bears dropped into the 3A Western Slope League after competing for several years in the 4A league. “We’re [rivals]. It was great for us to come out and win.”
It may not have been a league game, but perfect records were on the line for both teams.
Heald’s squad entered the night with a 6-0 record. The Demons were 11-0. Both owned top-10 rankings in The Denver Post’s latest rankings, with Glenwood sitting at No. 6 in 4A and Rifle at No. 8 in 3A.
And the matchup was every bit as intense as one might expect.
The Demons did something no team has had any luck doing to take a 15-6 lead after one quarter. They were able to break the Bears’ suffocating press.
“We knew they were going to press us right off the bat,” Glenwood coach Bryan Derby said. “We worked on our press break. That really helped us out and took pressure off our girls. For them, they were probably shocked. Not a whole lot of teams beat that press.”
Rifle actually had to abandon the press as the night wore on.
“We had to go man,” Heald said. “We knew, by going man, we’d have to go halfcourt just to save our legs.”
After missing their first 12 attempts from the floor, the Bears’ shots started falling in the second quarter.
Firing at an 8-of-17 clip on field goals in the second, Rifle outscored Glenwood 18-10 to pull within 25-24 at halftime.
“You know, we had a few jitters, I think, coming into the first quarter,” Heald said. “I told the girls at the end of the quarter, ‘Calm down, OK? Calm down your mind. Let your feet catch up and we’ll make it work.
“And we made it work.'”
And the Bears kept making it work by scoring 19 of the third quarter’s 26 points to grab a 43-32 lead.
But Glenwood scrapped back, chipping away to within two at 45-43 at the 3 minute, 28 second mark in the fourth.
Buckets by Racheal Keithley and Jasmine Figueira extended the Rifle lead to 49-43, but the Demons countered quickly.
Cassidy Gaddis hit a pair of free throws and Lexie Warkentin drove the baseline for a basket to cut it to 49-47 with 1:31 left.
After a Warkentin block on the other end, Kenzie Nelson-Buehler went to the line with 19.9 seconds remaining and hit 1 of 2 free throws to cut the Rifle lead to 49-48.
Cordova’s heroics at the charity stripe – and on defense – followed.
Stepping up to the line with 9.9 seconds, she hit her first free throw and missed the second. Glenwood’s Nelson-Buehler rebounded and immediately fired an outlet pass that Cordova picked off.
“I knew I was going to miss the free throw, just by the way I let go of it … I just ran over and got it,” Cordova said.
The senior was fouled immediately and hit a pair of free throws with 5.7 seconds to make it 52-48.
The Demons’ Hannah McDermott hit a short jumper with time expiring to round out the final count.
Cordova finished with a game-high 18 points. Makayla Wilkins added 12, Racheal Keithley 10 and Tresa Berner eight for the Bears. Keithley and Berner also finished with nine rebounds apiece.
Connor Adams’ 12 points led Glenwood. Kenzie Kuhn and Warkentin finished with 11 apiece.
Rian Creech’s 36 points on Tuesday matched a Rifle single-game school record, but it was of little solace to the senior and his teammates.
That’s because, behind 27 points from Kevin Flohr and a balanced score sheet, Glenwood’s topped Creech and the Bears, 85-72.
“Rian Creech doesn’t care about [the scoring record], to be honest,” Rifle coach Chris Lowther said. “It really doesn’t matter. He’d much rather we play a better game as a team.”
Flohr and the Demons built a 49-33 lead at halftime and then broke the game wide open in the third quarter.
After scoring just eight points in the first half, the sharp-shooting senior connected on four 3-pointers and scored 14 points in the frame to extend Glenwood’s lead to 71-48 by quarter’s end.
“I knew they were coming out in a box-and-one and I told Kevin, ‘If you just be patient, keep working and other people start scoring, they’re going to pull out and have to start manning us up,'” Demons coach Cory Hitchcock said. “That’s what happened. Other guys started stepping up tonight.”
Two teammates joined Flohr in double figures. Nick Ciani scored 13 points and Mike McGraw finished with 11. Collin Porterfield chipped in with nine, Cody Derby eight and Willy Pelland seven for the Demons, who improved to 9-3.
“We just did not play defense,” Lowther said. “Our inside defense was just terrible in the first half. We just let them get layup after layup after layup. That’s something we have to get better at.”
Taylor Boone scored eight points for Lowther’s Bears, now 3-4 overall. Taylor Webb and Von Church scored seven apiece.
Creech’s 36 points tied a school record that’s now shared by three players. Scott Goad matched the mark during a game in the 1981-82 season. Jon Klein reached the total during the 1988-89 campaign.
Next up for Rifle is a Friday home date with Coal Ridge. Glenwood is at Delta the same night.
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