Clutch fourth quarter leads Rifle to 32-23 win over Grand Valley Thursday
Rifle’s Tido Ruiz drives the lane against Grand Valley on Thursday. Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
Not necessarily a household name on the court for Rifle basketball, but based on what he did in the fourth quarter during an away game against Grand Valley on Thursday, that could all change.
In clutch fashion, the stocky junior was a force to be reckoned with in the offensive zone. Down 21-17 heading into the fourth quarter, Avila notched a key six points that ultimately ended up winning the game for Rifle, 32-23.
“Must be the first game of the season,” Grand Valley head coach Jeremy Tanner said. “I see pieces coming together that we’ve been working on. Ten days to install a whole new system, that’s tough.”
In the remaining minutes of the game, Avila drove hard to the net for a momentum-changing layup, while he drew three critical fouls while in the bonus. Of those trips to the stripe, he’d hit five of six free throws.
“We hit (free throws) down the stretch, yes, but in the first half, we missed five or six,” Rifle coach Kyle Daniell. “… We did knock ’em down when it counted, and that’s kind of the theme of tonight is, when we got in a flow for the game and it’s crunch time, we execute our best. As a coach, that’s a good sign for me.”
The Bears in fact would trail Grand Valley the entire game leading up until the closing stages of the fourth quarter.
“We stuck to it, and had some senior leadership and really handled their pressure,” Daniell said. “But they did a great job pressuring us and making it tough on our guards … We just stuck with it.”
The first quarter, both teams came out swinging. Rifle sophomore Kade Bishop first punched the Cardinals in the jaw, connecting on an early, three-point bucket. Grand Valley junior Emilio Garcia would later hit from downtown at the 1:31 mark, putting his team up 5-3.
Rifle and Grand Valley would go into the second frame tied at six apiece.
The Cardinals would then close out the second quarter with a three-pointer courtesy of Tyler Boger. The shot would put the home team up 15-10 at halftime.
The third quarter would see both teams go tit-for-tat in the offensive zone. A two-pointer by Cardinals sophomore Alex Alegria with 40 seconds left in the court would offer Grand Valley the three-point lead heading into the final quarter.
However, a combination of late-game foul trouble, as well as Avila’s efforts, would prove too much for Grand Valley.
“I see the building blocks there, I see things coming together,” Tanner said. “I told them in the locker room — because they’re upset about losing — I wish that you guys could have seen that game through my eyes. I see a lot of good things…
“It sucks to drop that one, but good things are happening for us.”
Suffering a 59-24 road loss to Eagle Valley on Saturday night, Grand Valley has fallen to 0-2 on the season.
Up next, Rifle heads to Frisco to take on Summit at 6:45 p.m. Thursday. The Cardinals head to Grand Junction to take on Central 7 p.m. Tuesday.
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More trails will open for the season on Sunday for mountain bikers in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Glenwood Springs.