Tigers roar past Bears in crunch time
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado – Late in Tuesday’s 60-51 win at Rifle, Grand Junction girls basketball coach Sam Provenza leaned over to an official and shared his disbelief over the night’s proceedings.
“I said, ‘I don’t know how we won the game,'” Provenza relayed. “Rifle outplayed us. They outhustled us. They got the loose balls. They hit their free throws. We just got some key steals and key baskets at a very opportune time.”
Provenza’s words couldn’t have been more accurate. Crunch time belonged to his Tigers, who scored 40 second-half points and closed Tuesday’s game at Rifle with a 15-6 run.
“You know, we played hard,” Rifle coach Stephanie Heald said. “I was very impressed. I thought that was the best game we played all season, so far. If we play that way, we’re going to be just fine.”
Heald’s Bears started out on a less-than-stellar note, falling into an 8-0 hole at the outset.
They scrapped back to finish up the first quarter down 10-6 and, in the second quarter, really came alive. Beginning the frame with a 6-2 run, Rifle tied the game at 12.
The deadlock was a preview of things to come. Nine tie counts followed as momentum swayed back and forth until late in the third quarter, when a 10-2 Grand Junction surge put the visitors up 40-32 with 10 seconds to go.
Nicole Karr hit a pair of free throws with less than a second remaining to pull Rifle to within six entering the fourth quarter.
From there, Karr and her teammates kept pecking away at the deficit. A bucket by Ciara Euler and a pair of free throws by Rachael Keithley brought Rifle to within two with 6 minutes, 14 seconds remaining in the fourth.
Paula Lage answered with a basket and free throw for the Tigers to make it 43-38 before Rifle responded with a 5-0 run – with all five points coming from the free-throw line.
With 4:04 to go, Grand Junction went back on top with a Stephanie Drake steal and layup.
Rifle’s Tresa Berner tied the game at 45 moments later and then, with 3:11 left, a Euler free throw gave Rifle a short-lived one-point lead.
From there, it was all Junction. Jumpstarted by back-to-back baskets by Jamie Derrieux, the Tigers owned the final moments.
It didn’t help the Bears that both Keithley and Cortney Cordova fouled out in the fourth quarter.
“We need them,” Heald said. “Losing two starters on the bench, that really hurt us.”
Keithley finished with 11 points and six rebounds before exiting. Cordova had four points, six steals and three assists.
Euler led Rifle (2-2) with 17 points and eight boards.
Derrieux led Grand Junction (4-1) with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Lage added 12 points. Drake netted nine points and Fawn Brady had eight steals.
“I’m proud of the way they didn’t let down,” Provenza said of his squad. “They maintained their composure and focus to the end of the game. … That’s a tough basketball team. That’s a good basketball team we played tonight.”
Closing the first half on a 12-0 run and never looking back, Grand Junction coasted to a 65-34 win over Rifle in Tuesday’s boys game.
“[Grand Junction] did a good job,” Bears coach Chris Lowther said. “They pressured us into turnovers. We had a bunch. Their defense was solid. We had a hard time against their pressure. We had a hard time getting out on shooters.”
Tyler Rust and Rian Creech led Rifle (1-2) with eight points apiece. Dustin Ross chipped in seven points.
Next up for both Rifle’s boys and girls hoops teams is Montrose High School’s Friday-Saturday Black Canyon Tournament.
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