For RHS girls basketball team and coach, it’s a learning experience on the court
Citizen Telegram Sports Editor
Kristy Wallner knows there’s a proverbial journey ahead for the Rifle High School girls basketball team.
That journey will be filled with learning, as most of the players on Rifle’s roster are playing in their first season of varsity basketball. And the Bears had another learning experience on Tuesday against Coal Ridge, which rallied from a small third-quarter deficit to hand the Bears a 47-40 non-league loss at the Titans’ gym.
“I’ve taken every game as a learning experience,” Wallner, the first-year coach of the Bears, said after the game. “Right now, it’s about getting the game to slow down for everyone so that we can execute plays. These are good kids, and I know that they’re not doing the wrong thing on purpose.”
There were a lot of good things done by Rifle on Tuesday night, though. The Bears were aggressive, looked for openings underneath the basket in transition and took advantage of them. That helped lead to a big second quarter, where the Bears answered a steal and lay-up from Coal Ridge’s Mariela Martinez at the beginning of the stanza with a 15-3 run that led to a 22-18 halftime lead for Rifle.
Coal Ridge came together down the stretch, though, using the same aggressiveness the Bears had in the first half to retake the lead in the second half and hold on to it.
“Our defense is what picks up our offense and gets all of our steals and leads to almost all of our points,” said Coal Ridge senior Paige Ryan, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “Our defense basically wins games for us, and it made a difference in this game.”
It definitely made a difference against the Bears. Coal Ridge forced 30 turnovers — 16 in the second half — to give themselves the extra opportunities they needed to beat Rifle’s girls basketball program for the first time since the school opened in 2007.
That wasn’t all thanks to Coal Ridge though, Wallner said.
“We forced a lot of our own turnovers,” the coach said. “That’s something we need to get better at.”
Chante Church, the Bears’ lone returning starter from a season ago, finished with a team-high 17 points. She went down with a knee injury in the fourth quarter, however, and had to be carried off the floor with 3 minutes, 2 seconds remaining. She was, however, able to walk around after the game, though an ice pack was taped to her right knee.
Emily Neuroth finished with eight points and 10 rebounds to pace the Bears in the paint, and they also got a seven-point, six-board performance from Carsyn Copeland.
The Bears dropped to 0-3 on the season with the loss. They will be off until Dec. 19, when they open Class 4A Western Slope League play at Palisade.
Rifle boys pull away from Titans
Rifle’s boys basketball team found out how to pull away from Coal Ridge in a big way. It so happens the Bears used their biggest guy to do it.
Senior Tanner Quick finished with a game-high 21 points for the Bears, who built on a nine-point halftime edge with a big third quarter, en route to a 52-37 victory over the Titans.
Quick, a 6-foot-5 post player, played really big for the Bears in the third quarter. After Rifle took a 29-20 lead into the second half, he scored 10 of the next 14 Rifle points to help the Bears take a 43-26 lead with close to two minutes gone in the fourth quarter.
It was the second consecutive victory for the Bears (2-1), who opened the season with a loss to Fruita Monument in Grand Junction on Dec. 3. Trenton Brown added 10 points and a 3-pointer and Nick Kosht chipped in six points for Rifle. Leading the way for Coal Ridge was senior Andy Bowles, who finished with a team-high 13 points.
Grand Valley splits against Aspen
PARACHUTE — Grand Valley’s boys basketball team hung with seventh-ranked Aspen Tuesday before falling, 69-66. Grand Valley’s girls basketball team had a much easier time with the Aspen girls, prevailing 83-6.
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A man was charged with suspicion of driving under the influence after his vehicle had to be fished out of the Colorado River in Rifle on Tuesday.