Titans split with Bears in nonconference showdown
Coach Paul Harvey’s Coal Ridge Titans boys basketball team stayed undefeated on the season as it used hot outside shooting and a decided size advantage in the painted area to topple the Rifle Bears, 54-35, Tuesday evening in Rifle.
Senior sharpshooting guard Brandon Herrera scored 14 first-half points — including four 3-pointers — to push Coal Ridge out to a commanding 32-13 lead at halftime that proved to be a hill too big for the Bears to climb out of.
“Brandon’s a very smart player, and he’ll take what the defense gives him,” Harvey said. “They were keying on Kevin [DiMarco] early on, so Brandon was open.”
Herrera got help in the early going from several other Titans as senior Brody Morgan got the scoring going with a back-door layup right off the bat to catch Rifle by surprise. Big man Kevin DiMarco hit a long-range 3-pointer, junior Jan Hernandez dropped in a leaning basket in the lane, and 6-foot, 8-inch senior Connor Detlefsen hit a side jumper to propel the Titans.
Rifle got first-half contributions from junior Joel Lopez, seniors Jacob Seeman, Blake Swasey and Evan Gray, as well as sophomore Garrett Robinson.
Trailing 32-13 at halftime, Rifle tried to claw its way back into contention in the third quarter. Following a hard, driving score by Titan junior Payton White, Rifle got baskets from Lopez, Swasey, Gray and sophomore Carter Pressler to out-score Coal Ridge 9-6 in the third quarter.
The Titans stretched things out again, though, as the fourth quarter opened as senior Juan Vasquez scored a 3-pointer and DiMarco took a lob pass and softly dropped it in the hoop as Coal Ridge was ahead to stay at 43-22.
Despite the setback, first-year Rifle Head Coach Kyle Daniell was pleased with how his team battled back in the third quarter and how hard they worked throughout the contest.
“We have talked about this season being a process,” Daniell said following the loss. “We knew that we would take some lumps with our lack of varsity experience. I really liked the fight and hustle I saw in the second half from these guys. We can take that as a positive moving forward.”
Scoring leaders for Coal Ridge were Herrera with 14 points, DiMarco with 10 points and Detlefsen with 6 points. Rifle was led by Lopez with 13 points and Swasey with 7 points.
Coal Ridge (3-0) will take on Montrose on Thursday in the Palisade Invitational Tournament. Rifle (1-4) will head east over the mountains on Friday to face Evergreen.
Rifle 54, Coal Ridge 49
With veteran coach Brad Skinner filling in for Rifle Head Coach Kristy Wallner, who was serving a one game suspension for being ejected in a game last week, the Bears used a quick start Tuesday night to jump out to a 13-3 first-quarter lead before holding off a furious second-half comeback to barely outdistance the rival Coal Ridge Titans, 54-49, at the Jack Smith Gymnasium.
After some slow going early on, senior guard Katy Manupella got Rifle’s first tally of the evening with a 3-pointer from the left side of the court at the 5:35 juncture of the initial quarter of play.
Rifle’s do-everything guard Elly Walters hit a free throw for the home team, then made a slick cross-over dribble move to get into the lane for a floating two-pointer to put the Bears up 6-0. Coal Ridge senior Santana Martinez swished a long 3-pointer from the corner, but Walters answered with a shot of her own beyond the arc and then dropped a lob pass into an open Manuppella, who eased the ball off the glass to keep Rifle cruising.
Masi Smith and Karly Manupella hit baskets early in the second quarter to keep the Bears moving in the right direction as they would lead 24-12 at the half.
Rifle’s big lead — and confidence — began to erode as the Titans started to heat up from the outside with the shooting of junior Adriana Varges and the inside play of promising freshman center Taylor Wiescamp.
Wiescamp, who led the Titans in scoring on the night with 17 points, was a head taller than all of her Rifle counterparts, using her size advantage to score key baskets early in the fourth quarter to get the Bears’ full attention. With Varges heating up on the perimeter and junior Kashley Morgan making a nice spin move to score along the baseline, the Bears began to blink just a little as the scoreboard read 43-37 with 2:22 left in the contest.
Coal Ridge Senior Sam Dunn then hit a driving shot and was fouled. After Dunn converted the free throw, Coal Ridge had inched to within three points at 43-40.
With Walters taking charge and controlling the ball out front, Coal Ridge was forced to send Rifle to the foul line multiple times as the clock and the game began to expire on the Titans. Karly Manupella converted two free throws for Rifle, and Walters was perfect from the charity stripe to keep the neighbors from up the interstate winless on the season.
Walters led Rifle in scoring with a game high 24 points. The Rifle cause was helped along by Katy Manupella who tallied 13 points. Wiescamp (17 points) and Varges (10 points) were the double-figure contributors for Coal Ridge.
Next up for the Rifle Bears (5-1) is a trip to visit the Grand Junction Tigers on Saturday afternoon. The ladies of Coal Ridge will take to the court this Friday night against Montezuma-Cortez in the Basalt High School tournament. The Titans will then face host Basalt on Saturday.
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Garfield County says no open burning is permitted between noon and 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, due to the National Weather Service Red Flag warning.