Bears led by three returning vets |

Bears led by three returning vets

Post Independent/Kelley Cox

RIFLE, Colo. – And then there were three.After graduating eight seniors from last year’s team, Scott Rust, Drew Blatchford and Zach Whitmore are the only returning players on Rifle’s boys basketball team.While they are just juniors, the returning trio bring a lot to the court. Rust leads the group as the only starter from last season and will run the offense as Rifle’s point guard. Blatchford and Whitmore each saw their fair share of playing time last year and will contribute leadership to the young Bears.

The biggest threat the trio present is the ability to sink shots from downtown. Rust finished second on the team in 3-pointers last season behind Stuart Stapleton and will look to continue hitting from behind the arch this season. Blatchford and Whitmore sprinkled in 3s throughout the season last year, and each have the ability to come through in clutch situations.Even with a roster full of younger players and lacking varsity experience, Rifle is hoping to improve from its sixth-place finish in Class 4A’s Western Slope League in 2005-06.”We are going to be better than last year,” said Blatchford, who only joined the team on Monday after his football season officially ended on Saturday when Rifle lost to Alamosa 34-26 in the playoff quarterfinals.

Rust has even higher expectations.”I think we are going to be pretty good,” Rust said. “I’d say we are going for a league championship. It’s pretty high, but I think we can do it.”The road to a championship starts with the first week of practice, where fifth-year coach Chris Lowther has the Bears concentrating on conditioning and defense.

“We’ve been doing a lot of defensive stuff,” Whitmore said. “Coach wants to make sure we are focusing on defense before we get to offense.”When the Bears jump into their season on Nov. 30 with a game at home against Basalt, they know what kind of game they will have to play to be successful. Lacking height, Rifle will be forced to rely on its speed. “We are small and fast,” Rust said. ” (Our offense will be a lot of) run and gun.”Without a designated big man to go to, the shooting abilities of Rust, Blatchford and Whitmore will be vital. As will their experience as they lead the Bears through the 06-07 season.Post Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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