Bears face tough test in opener at Harrison
Rifle boys basketball coach Chris Lowther wasn’t surprised the Bears received the No. 8 seed in the Guy Gibbs Region of the Class 4A State Tournament.
“It’s an extremely tough draw,” Lowther said. “But that’s what happens when you have a mediocre year. You don’t deserve a good draw.”
That being said, the Bears got what they deserved.
Rifle opens regional play against Harrison tonight with a 7:30 p.m. contest at the Panthers’ home gym.
Harrison doesn’t enter the game with a ton of hardware ” the Panthers fell short in their bid for both the Colorado Springs Metro League and district titles ” but that may be more of a reflection of the quality of competition than the quality of the Harrison team.
The Panthers finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the state by the Rocky Mountain News. They lost just two games this season ” both came against league and district champ and No. 1-ranked Fountain-Fort Carson.
The margin of victory for Fountain-Fort Carson in the two games? Three points combined.
According to Lowther, the Panthers play plenty of full-court press and play it well.
“(Harrison) is very quick, very aggressive and just a very solid team from what I know,” Lowther said. “I think, against most teams, they are able to press so well they make a lot plays and a lot of layups.”
The Panthers boast a pair of players in Class 4A’s top 15 in steals with Cornellius Halloway and Marquale Williams.
Williams also averages more than a dozen points per game, but the big scorer and go-to guy for Harrison is Dorian Watson. He averages more than 15 points per game and can play any position on the court, according to Lowther.
“He plays everywhere and I guess is really an incredible player,” said Lowther.
The key for Rifle will be solving the press. Not an easy task, considering the Bears (9-13) had just one day of practice after their fourth-place finish in the district tournament Saturday.
“We haven’t seen a team that presses like Harrison does,” Lowther said. “Pretty much all practice (on Monday) was trying to execute a press offense. So, hopefully, at least we can show them some different looks. Then we’ll try to be real patient and try to make sure we’re always taking the right shot.”
With Harrison’s pressing style, more weight will fall on the shoulders of guards Troy Weiss, Adam Krick and Jim Owens. They won’t be expected get around the press with the dribble, however.
“We feel like we need to break the press by using the pass as much as possible,” Lowther said. “We’re going to try to get cuts through it and see if we can hit guys cutting through the middle.
“We feel like we do have some guards who can step up a bit,” he added. “Our starting guards can handle the ball well enough to give us a chance.”
The winner of tonight’s game advances to the “Sweet 16” round against the winner of No. 4-seed Cheyenne Mountain (17-5) and fifth-seed Pueblo South (15-7). The Guy Gibbs Region rounds of 16 and eight teams will be held at Regis University in Denver on Thursday and Friday.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.