Bears’ balance nets league win
RIFLE — A much-needed offensive spark against the Summit High School boys basketball team was followed on Saturday by the defensive prowess that has come to define the Rifle Bears.
Avery Lujan’s three 3-point field goals were a big part of a 11-0 Rifle run that spanned two quarters, and the Bears only allowed one Summit field goal in the final three minutes of a 49-37 Class 4A Western Slope League victory at the Rifle High gym.
“Avery has a chance to become one of the best shooters to ever come out of this school,” Rifle coach Roger Walters said. “He has been our most consistent kid through the first seven games, which has been great.”
Lujan, a junior guard, finished with a team-high 17 points to help the Bears (4-3 overall, 1-2 4A WSL) snap a three-game losing streak dating back to their 57-51 loss at Aspen on Dec. 12. He also hit 3-of-4 foul shots down the stretch to help Rifle keep its distance when Summit had chances to cut into the lead. That, along with some stellar defense down the stretch, helped the Bears nearly double their point total from their 35-25 loss on Friday to Glenwood Springs at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
“We haven’t been doing what we’ve been doing in practice. We didn’t move the ball and we didn’t play good defense,” Lujan said of the difference between the way his team played on Saturday compared to Friday afternoon in Denver. Tonight we did both of those things.”
Luis Carreon and Austin Boone each added seven points for the Bears, but their defense is what made the difference down the stretch. Summit (0-6, 0-1 league), which got a game-high 22 points from Thomas DeBonville, was only able to hit one field goal in the final four minutes while hitting just 1-of-11 attempts from the field during that stretch.
Still, Summit found a way to stay in it until the end of the game.
A 3-pointer from DeBonville to start the second quarter, followed by a transition layup from Jason Engel, put the Tigers up 14-13 with 7 minutes, 25 seconds remaining in the second quarter. A putback from Boone later in the stanza put Rifle back up 20-16, but an 8-3 spurt from the Tigers — capped by a steal and layup from DeBonville — gave the lead back to Summit at 24-23 with 20 seconds left before halftime.
It was the last time the Tigers led thanks to Lujan, who nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Bears a two-point halftime cushion. He followed with two more 3s, and Rifle went up 34-24 on a putback from Morgan Robinson.
Rifle wasn’t able to put the game away early in the fourth, however, going 3-for-7 from the foul line during a two-minute stretch that kept the Tigers within reach at 43-35 with 1:03 remaining. Luis Carreon and Lujan, however, combined to hit 5-of-6 foul shots in the final minute while the Bears’ defense limited the Tigers’ shooting during the game’s final stretch.
Rifle is off until Jan. 9 when it plays at Delta. Summit will host a nonleague game Jan. 6 against Buena Vista.
GIRLS: Rifle 33, Summit 21
RIFLE — Whitney Vance scored nine of her game-high 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Bears (6-1, 2-1 4A WSL) recover from their first loss of the season the previous night.
Kate Tomlinson finished with nine points to pace the Tigers (3-3, 0-1 league), who were limited to a Brittany Berry field goal in the first quarter as the Bears took an early 8-2 lead. Then they pulled closer, as a jumper from Autumn Ward with 37 seconds remaining in the third quarter cut Rifle’s lead to 18-16.
The Tigers, however, came no closer. Elly Walters’ two foul shots to end the third quarter, followed by a 3-pointer from Vance, sparked an 11-3 run over the next seven minutes to put the Bears up 31-19. Vance scored nine of the Bears’ 11 points during the run.
“We all run the same plays in practice and know what everybody does, so it’s nice that everyone has the opportunity to step up with Emily being out,” Vance said of senior post player Emily Neuroth, who didn’t play thanks to an ankle injury she suffered during Rifle’s 54-26 loss to Glenwood on Friday.
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It was a statement game featuring the two best boys basketball teams in the 4A Western Slope League on Saturday afternoon at the Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium in Glenwood Springs. And, just like in the old western shootouts, it was the Glenwood Demons who had spoken the loudest when all the dust had settled with a key 58-44 win over the Steamboat Springs Sailors.