Bears sweep Devils in league showdown
In one of the best team performances of the year by the Rifle Bears boys basketball team, and a hot shooting night from sophomore forward Carter Sturgeon, Rifle was able to top the visiting Eagle Valley Devils Thursday inside Jack Smith Gymnasium 65-62 to pick up its third win of the season.
Sturgeon, who came into the game in a shooting slump, busted out in a big way, hitting seven three-pointers on his way to a career-high 22 points, playing a pivotal part in Rifle’s bounce back win over Eagle Valley in a big 4A Western Slope League game.
“I knew once I hit the first one that I was out of the slump that I was in,” Sturgeon said. “I got my shot back and I started shooting with more confidence when my teammates found me.”
The 6’4” sophomore did much of his damage from beyond the arc in the left corner, where the sophomore said Eagle Valley’s defender wasn’t guarding him closely, giving him enough room to get good looks at the bucket.
Outside of his terrific shooting from beyond the arc, Sturgeon chipped in with a free throw down the stretch to seal the win.
“It felt great to get out of that slump and do it in a win,” Sturgeon said. “But it was the free throws from my teammates down the stretch that really got us the win.”
The win for the Bears was a big one, helping them right the ship following a couple of close losses to Grand Valley and Glenwood Springs.
Rifle stuck to its fundamentals on offense against a 1-3-1 zone deployed by Eagle Valley, while hitting the glass on defense and closing out on shooters, forcing some tough shots for a veteran Devils team.
“I’m just so proud of them and happy for them,” Rifle Head Coach Roger Walters said. “After the last couple of games they could have just packed it in, but they didn’t. With Carter, he’s our best shooter and he puts in a ton of work, so to see him get rewarded tonight was fun. Jacob Seeman played the best game of high school basketball in his career because he just played and didn’t think. We talked [Wednesday] about it being time for him to step up as it is now 11 games into his junior season, and he was just great tonight. I’m just tickled for the boys.”
The win has the Bears riding high, but midway through the game things looked bleak for the young Bears, who struggled to get stops defensively.
Starting off the game, Rifle got a layup from senior forward Jacob Boone and a three-pointer in the corner from Sturgeon to take a quick 5-0 lead.
From there, Rifle would get just one free throw from Boone as Eagle Valley went on a 14-1 run behind three-pointers from senior guard Arturo Loera, sophomore guard Carlos Quezada and senior forward Dawson Keller to take a 14-6 lead after one quarter of play.
Dawson would stretch the Devils’ lead to 17-6 to start the second quarter on his second three-pointer of the game before Seeman answered with a three-pointer for Rifle to stop the run.
Holding a 17-9 lead, Eagle Valley would get a third three-pointer from Dawson, who banked it in to stretch the lead to 20-9 before Sturgeon hit a three-pointer in transition to get Rifle going.
Following Sturgeon’s three, the Bears and Devils would trade bucket after bucket, closing out the quarter with two three-pointers from Sturgeon and two three-pointers from senior guard Mathew Sanchez to give the Devils a 33-25 lead at the half.
Coming out for the entertaining second half, Boone got the Bears started with a three-pointer before Loera hit his second three-pointer of the game to make it 36-28 Eagle Valley.
Seeman then immediately answered with a triple of his own before senior guard Blaine Vance hit two free throws to pull Rifle to within three, 36-33.
A jumper and a layup from Boone, a three-pointer from Sturgeon and a free throw each from Vance and sophomore forward Joel Lopez pulled the Bears to within one, 43-42 at the end of the third quarter, setting up a terrific fourth quarter of action.
In the fourth, Boone would give the Bears a quick lead on a three-pointer before Sturgeon would stretch the lead to 48-44 a minute later. Seeman was then able to draw a bizarre intentional foul early in the fourth quarter, sinking both free throws while retaining possession, leading to one more trip to the line for the junior guard.
Holding a 51-44 lead, Rifle began to melt the clock, forcing the Devils to send them to the free throw line.
While at the line, Seeman sank six of six down the stretch, while Lopez hit three of four and Boone hit three of four. Sturgeon would hit his final three-pointer and split a pair of free throws to give Rifle a 64-56 lead before Loera would drill two deep pull-up three-pointers in transition to cap off the final score.
With the win, Rifle improves to 3-9 (2-2 4A WSL) on the season. Sturgeon led the way with 22 points, while Boone and Seeman added 21 and 15 points, respectively.
The Bears will host the Montrose Indians on Saturday in a non-league matchup inside Jack Smith Gymnasium.
RIFLE 34, EAGLE VALLEY 21
Taking on the leading scorer in all of 4A in the state of Colorado in Eagle Valley senior forward Kylie Martin (21.4 points per game), the Rifle Lady Bears clamped down defensively to grind out a big league win over the visiting Devils while holding Martin to just five points in a 34-21 win inside Jack Smith Gymnasium.
Early on the two teams tightened things up defensively as buckets and open shots were hard to come by on the night.
Junior guard Elly Walters made a great feed in transition to junior forward Peyton Caldwell for a layup and the foul, but the ensuing free throw would miss to give the Lady Bears an early 2-0 lead. From there, Eagle Valley would get a free throw and a layup in transition to take a 3-2 lead before Walters would get a putback to fall in traffic to give Rifle a 4-3 lead after one quarter of play.
In the second quarter the Lady Bears held the Devils scoreless while junior forward Jessie Pressler drilled a corner three-pointer to give Rifle a 7-3 lead before senior forward Samantha Hinkle hit two free throws before halftime to send Rifle into the break with a 9-3 lead over Eagle Valley.
With scoring a tough task in the first half, the Lady Bears committed to the defensive end, which then led to easy offense in the second half as Rifle exploded for 12 points in the third quarter as Walters got a steal and a layup to go before Hinkle hit a layup off of a great post move to make it 14-7 Rifle midway through the second quarter.
A three-pointer from Pressler and a layup from Walters gave the Lady Bears a 21-10 lead after three quarters of play with Martin yet to get on the board for the Devils.
Starting the fourth quarter, Hinkle — who drew the tough assignment of matching up with Martin — really asserted herself in the post, getting another layup to fall before Walters hit a three-pointer and a driving layup to make it 28-11 Rifle midway through the final quarter of play, all but sealing the win.
Senior guard Karly Manuppella then came through with a layup and the foul in transition, capping off the three-point play with the free throw to make it 31-13 before Martin finally got on the board with a layup and the foul in traffic. The senior forward would miss the free throw for Eagle Valley, leading to two free throws at the other end from junior forward Masi Smith to extend Rifle’s lead to 33-15 late in the fourth quarter.
Smith would later split a pair of free throws before Martin hit a meaningless three-pointer cap off the 34-21 win for the Lady Bears on home court.
With the win, Rifle improves to 8-3 (3-1 4A WSL) on the season. Walters led the way with 11 points, while Hinkle (seven points), Pressler (six points), Smith (three points) and Manuppella (three points) provided balanced scoring across the board.
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