Coal Ridge defends turf |

Coal Ridge defends turf

Jeff Caspersen
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

PEACH VALLEY, Colorado ” Facing his alma mater didn’t feel the least bit strange for first-year Coal Ridge boys basketball coach Paul Harvey.

“I didn’t even think about it,” said Harvey, a 1996 Rifle High School graduate. “I’m a Titan now. Besides, that was a long time ago. I’m pretty old.”

Strange or not, Harvey and his Class 3A Titans got the best of 4A Rifle on Tuesday, riding the hot second-half hand of Eric Schmitz to a 71-60 win.

After going 0-for-4 on 3-pointers in the first half, Schmitz drained 4 of his 5 triple tries in the second half to finish with 26 points.

While Schmitz leveled his barrage from the outside, teammate Andy Smedra regularly slashed through the lane, dropping in layups off the glass. He finished with 20 points as the Titans improved to 2-0 under their new coach in front of a huge, rowdy and bipartisan crowd at Coal Ridge High School, which is maybe a 15-minute drive from Rifle.

Schmitz credits his teammates with giving him the confidence to come out firing in the second half.

“They just told me to keep shooting and it’ll fall,” he said. “And it did.”

“He’s a consistent shooter,” Harvey said. “He usually doesn’t have an off night the entire night.”

Schmitz and his Titan teammates turned it on in a big way in the second half. Coal Ridge rather quickly turned a 10-point halftime advantage into a 22-point lead by the end of the third quarter.

While Schmitz and Smedra had the big points night, Alex Klein filled out the stat sheet in other areas. On top of his 10 points, the 6-foot-9-inch senior grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked five shots.

Also reaching double digits in scoring for Coal Ridge was Rafael Fabela, who hit three 3-pointers and finished with 12 points.

Ryan Davis led Rifle, playing its fellow Garfield School District Re-2 high school for the first time in a regular season game, with 16 points and seven rebounds. Eric Laudick added 12 points and Jacob Massey finished with 10 points and seven boards.

“Basically, they wanted to play a certain way, and that’s exactly how we let them play,” said Rifle coach Chris Lowther, whose team is now 2-1. “They’re good at what they do.”

First-year Rifle girls basketball coach Stephanie Heald couldn’t help but feel a little nervous going up against her former coach.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Heald, a 2000 Rifle High School graduate, played for Rick Schmitz and the Bears. On Tuesday, she faced Schmitz in his new capacity as Coal Ridge’s girls coach.

And she did pretty well.

Behind 17 points from Cortney Cordova, 14 from Makayla Wilkins, 12 from Sandy Samson and 10 from Quincey Snyder, Heald and the Bears churned out a 65-56 win.

“I was nervous going against my old coach,” Heald confessed. “I had my big anxiety attack going against him. It was nice to win.”

It took a while for Rifle to shake the scrappy Titans, who trailed by just five at halftime. The Bears opened the third quarter with a 6-0 run and outscored Coal Ridge 17-8 in the frame to take a 47-33 lead into the fourth.

While the host Titans erupted for 23 points in the final quarter, they couldn’t quite get over the hump against Rifle, which went 10-of-15 from the free-throw line in the fourth.

Defense is where the Bears won the game, clogging the passing lines and converting transition buckets at key moments. Cordova got a fair share of her points that way.

The sophomore finished with five steals on the night.

Rifle, which improved to 3-1 with the win, also gave Coal Ridge problems with a stifling press, something Snyder cited as a big part of the Bears’ win.

“That helped us a lot,” the junior said. “That slowed down what they were trying to do.”

“They’re a very well-coached team,” Schmitz said of Rifle. “Their kids played very well. Their pressure hurt us.”

Chasity Gonzales and Sam Wilson led the Titans, now 1-1, with 12 points apiece. Eight of Gonzales’ points came in the fourth quarter.

Mikaela Guettler, Kaitlin Moeller and Tori Verdieck each finished with eight points for Coal Ridge. Verdieck crashed the boards for eight rebounds.

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