Bears sweep Bulldogs behind offensive explosion
Playing the back end of a back-to-back, the Rifle Bears girls and boys basketball teams barely looked fatigued on a night in which the two squads rolled to dominant wins over the visiting Moffat County Bulldogs on Friday night inside Jack Smith Gymnasium.
In the girls game, Rifle was able to close out the win from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, going 13 for 14 in the final eight minutes of the game to cap off the 52-37 win, while the boys seemingly couldn’t miss from anywhere on the floor, racing out to a 23-3 lead after one quarter of play before rolling to a 70-49 win on a night filled with highly entertaining basketball.
Tipping things off against the Moffat County Bulldogs in the first game of the night, the Rifle girls went with a change in the starting lineup for the second straight night, substituting junior forward Karly Manuppella for junior forward Jessie Pressler, who has been battling illness.
Starting alongside her twin sister Katy, Karly played a key role for the Bears right from the jump as Rifle’s offense fired on all cylinders to start the game.
Moffat would start the game with a driving layup from senior guard Alex Hamilton and one free throw from junior forward Makenna Baker before the Bears would heat up as junior guard Elly Walter hit a layup and a three-pointer to give Rifle a 5-3 lead before a layup in traffic from Moffat senior forward Mattie Jo Duzik tied the game at 5-all.
Following Duzik’s layup, Rifle took a quick 11-5 lead as Walters and Katy Manuppella splashed home three-pointers before senior forward Samantha Hinkle hit a driving layup to make it 13-5 Bears late in the first quarter.
A jumper from Moffat senior guard Josey King made it 13-7 before Hinkle drilled a three-pointer at the top of the key to give the Bears a 16-7 lead after one quarter of play.
Continuing the hot shooting from the first quarter, Rifle would outscore Moffat 12-10 in the second quarter as Hinkle hit a tough layup in traffic through the foul before sinking the ensuing free throw, while sophomore Masi Smith got a layup to fall in the paint.
From there, Karly Manuppella would crash the glass and get an offensive putback to fall to make it 22-11 Rifle before a three-pointer from Katy on the next possession made it 25-13 Rifle midway through the quarter with a new-look lineup.
“I was really pleased with the way our offense looked tonight,” Rifle Head Coach Kristy Wallner said. “It was a continuation from Summit because Jessie has been sick, but we told Karly that an opportunity is an opportunity, and she really stepped up for us. She has the ability to finish, but also hits the boards well for us and runs the floor really well. Plus, her shot is coming along, and it was just fun to see how our offense looked tonight.”
A three-pointer from Walters would send the Bears into the half with a 28-17 lead over the Bulldogs.
Coming out of the break, Hinkle dialed in from deep again to start the scoring in the third quarter before Moffat went on a quick 7-0 run as Duzik hit two layups and King sank a three-pointer, but not to be outdone, Karly Manuppella drilled a three-pointer of her own on the next possession to extend Rifle’s lead back to 10 points, 34-24.
Katy Manuppella would answer two Moffat free throws with a tough putback in the lane off of an offensive rebound before junior forward Peyton Caldwell would split a pair of free throws to give Rifle a 37-30 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
In the final eight minutes of action, Rifle looked to slow it down offensively.
“We wanted to slow it down and sort of a run a stall,” Wallner said. “But at the same time we still wanted to attack and look for a good shot.”
By doing so, the Bears forced the Bulldogs to foul, sending Rifle to the free throw line where they simply ended it by hitting 13 of 14 from the charity stripe.
Rifle’s only two points coming away from the free throw line in the fourth quarter was a steal and layup from Katy Manuppella.
With the win, Rifle improves to 11-3 (4-1 4A Western Slope League) on the season. For the Bears, Walters finished with a game-high 16 points, while Katy Manuppella added 14 points.
Hinkle chipped in with eight points, while Karly Manuppella added seven points and five rebounds.
RIFLE 70, MOFFAT COUNTY 49
It’s very rare that a high school basketball game is all but over after one quarter of play, but Friday night’s matchup between the Rifle Bears and the Moffat County Bulldogs was all but over after eight minutes of play.
In the opening quarter, Rifle dialed in from downtown, hitting seven three-pointers in the quarter to race out to a 23-3 lead over the Bulldogs before rolling to a 70-49 win in a non-conference matchup.
Starting things off, senior guard Blaine Vance saw a wild three-pointer bank in from the wing before then splashing home a corner three-pointer on the next possession to open the floodgates from downtown.
Following Vance’s two three-pointers, sophomore forward Carter Sturgeon and junior guard Jacob Seeman drilled three-pointers of their own before senior forward Jacob Boone ended the three-point barrage briefly with a mid-range jumper to make it 14-0 Rifle.
Sturgeon would then hit his second three-pointer of the quarter to make it 17-0 before Moffat County would get on the board thanks to a three-pointer from junior guard Brent Cook to give the visitors something to cheer about in the middle of a scoring onslaught.
That would be all the Bulldogs would get in the quarter though as Vance and Boone capped off the quarter with a three-pointer each to give the Bears a 20-point lead after one quarter of play.
Looking to build off of the great first quarter, Rifle continued to fire away from deep as Seeman started the second quarter with a triple to make it 26-3 before Moffat would get a layup from senior forward Keenan Hildebrandt and a steal and layup from Cook to make it 26-7 early in the second quarter.
Following Cook’s steal, Boone answered with a layup and the foul, sinking the ensuing free throw before hitting two more jumpers to go on his own little 7-0 run to stretch the Rifle lead to 33-7.
After Moffat junior forward Justin Dugan split a pair of free throws, Sturgeon splashed home his third triple of the game to continue to pour it on.
Down 36-8, Moffat would outscore Rifle 7-4 to close the quarter as Hildebrandt hit 4-of-6 free throws, while sophomore guard Connor Murphy hit a three-pointer to send the Bulldogs into the half trailing the Bears, 40-15.
Coming out of halftime, Seeman again hit a three-pointer to start the quarter before Moffat went on a quick 8-0 run as sophomore guard Cale Scranton and junior guard Kasen Brennise hit three-pointers while Hildebrandt got a putback to fall to spark the Bulldogs.
Sturgeon would then hit his fourth three-pointer of the game before Dugan would answer with a three of his won. But just like that, Seeman would counter Dugan’s three-pointer with a triple, giving Rifle a 49-26 lead.
Right after Seeman’s three, junior forward Evan Gray would go to work in the paint, scoring a tough bucket through contact to ignite the Rifle bench. Late in the quarter junior guard Isaiah Fusiller would hit a three-pointer to give Rifle a 57-31 lead after three quarters of play.
In the final eight minutes, Rifle was able to empty the bench to get reserves into the game, highlighted by senior guard Damian Powell exploding for five points off the bench on two tough layups and a free throw, while junior guard Elijah Whitman would hit a tough layup as well to cap off the 70-49 win.
“We’ve never really stuck it to anyone like that,” Rifle Head Coach Roger Walters said. “(Thursday) we let a 15-point lead go before holding on to win, but tonight we kept the lead and kept building on it, which was nice to see. I thought for the most part we did a really good job of setting each other up all over the court.”
With the win, Rifle has now won four straight games to improve its record to 6-9 on the season. For the Bears, Boone finished with 19 points, while Sturgeon and Seeman added 12 points each. Vance chipped in with 11 points.
The Bears will host the Steamboat Sailors on Tuesday night at 6 and 7:30 p.m.
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