Bears split with Devils in league matchup
The Rifle girls basketball team, inching ever-closer to clinching the 4A Western Slope League championship, were never in real jeopardy on Tuesday night as they defeated the Eagle Valley Devils 58-33, inside Jack Smith Gymnasium, to pick up their 17th win of the season and stay unbeaten in league play.
Rifle Head Coach Kristy Wallner was happy with the win, but still searching for continued improvement from her team as the state playoffs near.
“We have five games left in the season, and it’s a push right now to start cleaning up some physical and mental plays that need improvement,” Wallner said. “We have a couple more games this week to work on things and put us in good shape for the rest of the season.”
Eagle Valley was still close as the first-quarter buzzer sounded, trailing only 14-10. Rifle may have been a little flustered to open the game as they watched in silence as teammate Peyton Caldwell was helped from the floor with an injury at the 6:31 mark of the initial frame.
Rifle’s dynamic trio of Elly Walters (22 points), Katy Manuppella (14 points) and Karly Manuppella (7 points) started to kick into gear in the second period to help the Bears widen their lead.
Walters scored on a variety of drives to the basket as well as cashing in from the foul line as the Devils were unable to stop her dribble penetration. Katy Manuppella, who was knocked out of the game briefly at the start of the second period after taking an elbow to the nose under the basket, hit a driving right-hander and then stepped out to hit a 3-pointer from the left corner on an assist from Karly Manuppella . Sophomore Taylor Davis put the finishing touches on the Rifle first-half scoring with a basket inside as the Bears upped their lead to 30-15 at the break.
With Rifle up comfortably 47-22 at the start of the final quarter, Wallner cleared her bench, inserting reserves Natalie Schauster, Mackenzie Elizardo, April Quinones and Delaney Phillips to carry the torch the rest of the way, as the starters now cheered on the reserves.
“This team is fun to play with. We all share the ball, and everyone has a special quality,” Walters said following the game. “We want to keep things going in the right direction and keep playing to the best of our ability.”
As the regular season nears its completion, the Rifle girls (17-1, 8-0 WSL) will try to keep their winning ways going this Thursday night when they will pay a visit to the Summit Tigers in another conference game.
EAGLE VALLEY 81, RIFLE 59
The Eagle Valley Devils used an aggressive full-court press and a rapid-fire offense to break open a close game at the half for an 81-59 Western Slope League victory on Tuesday night at the Jack Smith Gymnasium in Rifle.
The game was in doubt at the half, with the Devils holding just a 32-24 lead. The Bears kept things close with the inside play of senior post Evan Gray, who ended up with 10 points for the game, and the scoring of sophomore guard Treyson Lujan who took scoring honors for Rifle with 18 points.
In the third quarter, Rifle crept as close as 38-35 at the 4:41 mark after senior guard Jacob Seeman hit a corner 3-pointer, but three quick turnovers against the Eagle Valley press, and consequent scores by the Devils broke the game open entering the last period of play.
Eagle Valley’s Jacob Medina hit a 3-pointer with 6:09 to play, and the score had ballooned to 65-50 in favor of the Devils. The Bears were not able to draw any closer to the Devils from that point on.
Rifle also got scoring contributions on the night from sophomore Carter Pressler who totaled 7 points, with Seeman scoring 6 points.
The Bears dropped to 2-17 overall and 1-8 in conference play with a Thursday night date at Summit coming up.
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Local teams just missed out on qualifying for state as teams but will be sending individual representatives following Friday’s regional meets.