Bears get past Eagles in first round of playoffs
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE ” Running and gunning, Rifle’s speedy offense was relentless against Thompson Valley on Tuesday night, attacking them early and often on way to a 63-52 victory in the first round of the Class 4A state basketball playoffs.
Whether it was Scott and Tyler Rust and Keenan Ross getting steals, or Hazen Moss, Eric Laudick and Drew Blatchford getting rebounds, the Bears used quick passes down the court to take advantage of the Eagles before they had even set up their defense.
Rifle’s plan put the Bears up 16-9 half way through the first quarter and 22-11 at the end of the first eight minutes.
“I thought we came out real, real good. Real intense early and that’s really what got us the cushion that we needed,” said Rifle head coach Chris Lowther. “Our quickness is definitely our best asset, just the way we get up the court and go.”
By halftime, Rifle was ahead 38-24. The Rust brothers combined for 21 of those points, while Ross scored 13. The trio wreaked havoc on the Eagle ball handlers and seemed to always be able to find each other on the court. Maybe that’s because they’ve been doing it for a long time.
“We have been playing together ever since pee wees,” Ross said of he and the Rusts. “Tyler’s a little younger, but he’s always played up with us and we’ve just been playing all these years.”
After leading by as much as 17 in the first half, Rifle committed seven turnovers in the third period and allowed Thompson Valley to cut its lead to 46-39 going into the final frame.
“Thompson Valley did a good job of getting us into the half court once they figured out what we like to do ” get out and go,” Lowther said. “They started defending the outlet pass, then when we got in the half court we struggled.”
That’s when Rifle turned the heat back on, replaced their turnovers with Thompson Valley turnovers and went up 56-14 with 2:30 left.
The Eagles (7-17) were then forced to foul the Bears, but since Rifle hit 11 of 14 in the final eight minutes, they couldn’t shrink the Bears’ lead.
Ross led all scorers with 22 points, while Scott Rust totaled 18 and Tyler added 14 for Rifle. Thompson Valley’s leading scorer Derek Sebastian totaled 15 points before fouling out with 32 seconds remaining.
Rifle (15-8) will now advance to the second round where it will travel to Golden (18-5), a team that received a bye in the first round. After the win over Thompson Valley, Rifle, the No. 6 seed, will be hoping for an upset over No. 3 Golden and a spot in the Sweet 16.
“It’s been a longtime coming,” Ross said. “We got to the playoffs last year and didn’t do so good, so this feels real good and we are ready to go get another one.”
The game will be at 7 p.m. Friday night.
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The Rifle and Glenwood Springs girls tangled on Tuesday night at Glenwood’s Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium in a 4A Western Slope League contest that carried major implications in the conference standings.