Bears claim crown
RIFLE – The Rifle Bears are built on defense: If they hold an opponent under 50 points, more often than not, they seem to come out on the winning side.
The strategy worked well for the first two rounds of the Girls Western Slope Basketball Tournament. In the championship game, the Bears gave up the 50, but just barely.Rifle had a 21-point burst of offense in the fourth quarter against Moffat County in the title game to down the Bulldogs 61-51 Saturday night.Montanah Matthies scored 15 points in the win, while Renee Laudick and Kristin Neffendorf had 15 and 10, respectively.The Bears rolled to an easy 60-36 win over Battle Mountain on Friday, but the semifinal victory over Steamboat Springs was a different story as the Bears rallied from double digits to down the Sailors 56-48.Entering the third quarter, the Sailors already had 42 points and a six-point lead and looked well on their way to eclipsing the 50-point mark.Then the Bears defense stepped up.
After leading by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, Steamboat still had a five-point advantage after Kayla Kostur hit 1-of-2 free throws with 6:23 left in the game.It was the last points the Sailors would score for more than 5 1/2 minutes.With 5:41 left, Haley Hubbell drained a free throw that started a 12-0 run by the Bears.”When we got to four I felt like it was swinging a little our way,” Rifle head coach Rick Schmitz said. “It seemed like everybody looked up and thought ‘We can still do this.'”Schmitz’s instincts were on the money. The Bears took their first lead of the game, 46-45, with 4:28 left and reeled off another six points before Steamboat’s Jessica Peters knocked down a trey to cut the lead back to 52-48 with 48 seconds left in the game. The basket was the last of the game for the Sailors.”Our run and jump got going and our rebounding started to click and that helped a lot,” Hubbell said.
Like in the championship game, the Bears didn’t dominate until the fourth, when they outscored the Sailors 20-6. Hubbell admitted that the team has had some trouble getting off to good starts so far this season, but had no answers why.”We don’t even know what goes on with us,” she said with a smile.Kristin Guettler paced the Bears with 14 points, while Hubbell and Kendall Babler posted 14 and 10, respectively.In the first-round game Friday, Neffendorf led the Bears with 15 points and Laudick had 11.The Bears improves to 6-1 on the season. Rifle is off until Jan. 8 when it plays host to rival Glenwood Springs.The Bears improves to 6-1 on the season. Rifle is off until Jan. 8 when it plays host to rival Glenwood Springs.
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.